Michigan leaders fight to secure Selfridge air base’s future with new mission

A formal decision is expected to be made in the spring

Michigan leaders were making the case to bring a new air force mission to Selfridge Air Base in a series of new letters to the Air Force.

Every member of the House of Representatives from Michigan, except Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI14), both Senators Debbie Stabenow (D), Gary Peters (D), and Governor Gretchen Whitmer have sent letters to the Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendell.

It’s a bi-partisan push to keep the aging air base from falling further out of favor.

Congressman John James (R-MI10), a former army pilot, is the lead voice on the House resolution.

“We’ve been knocking down [Kendall’s] door from every single angle,” the freshman Republican said on Friday (Feb. 3). “I had a quick phone conversation with him a number of weeks ago. He was just welcoming me to Congress, and I took the opportunity to bend his ear.”

Right now, Selfridge is home to the A-10 “Warthog” Thunderbolt II, which has been around since the late 1970s. The Air Force has said it’s looking to retire the Warthog, which would mean the loss of hundreds of jobs and lots of money in and around the base.

The new mission would likely make the base a training center for the new F-35 fighter jet and give the base an infusion of more than $100 million. The base has been passed up for the mission before contracts in 2017 went to Wisconsin and Alabama.

In this round of talks, the base is still just the military’s backup option. They’d rather see the F-35 go to Fort Smith, Arkansas. James said he and his fellow members of Congress aren’t about to let that happen.

“We not talking about that,” said James. “Frankly, I like our chances if we work together.”

There are still plenty of hurdles to jump before any official decision is made. James also pointed out the approach to attracting the military to Michigan, a compliment he extended to Whitmer.

Still, it’s unclear whether it will be enough to sway opinion in the Pentagon and what it would mean for the base if the F-35 isn’t brought to Michigan and the A-10 is phased out.

A formal decision is expected to be made in the spring.

About the Author:

Grant comes to Local 4 from Oklahoma City. He joins the news team as co-anchor of Local 4 News Today weekend mornings and is a general assignment reporter.