OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE — Officials of the Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha are hoping two new projects will help it survive the next round of military base closures.
The Pentagon has given about $1.2 billion to the construction of a new headquarters for the U.S. Strategic Command at the base. Design work has begun on a second project meant to improve an 11,700-foot runway that's expected to cost between $50 million and $100 million.
"Now StratCom will have a new home, a tremendous capability right here in the center of the country," said Heather Wilson, secretary of the U.S. Air Force. "And right on the edge of what will be a newly refurbished wide, long runway — that will certainly be an advantage."
Officials of the base said about a quarter of the runway is in poor condition. Wilson said the runway has been frequently patched but never completely rebuilt since it was constructed in 1941.
State officials have rallied to receive funding for the runway project to make it more likely the base will stay through the next round of closures, which Pentagon officials have long wanted to reduce overhead costs.
The U.S. Senate included a provision in last month's defense authorization bill to study more base closures beginning in 2019. If the House agrees to it, the closings could follow in the early 2020s.
Wilson said community support for the Air Force mission as well as for military families will play a significant role in the service's decision about which bases stay open.