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FY 2015 Defense Spending By State report now available for download.

KEEPING BUCKLEY ALOFT: The mission to find room for Aurora’s Air Force base to survive

AURORA | After double checking the weapons strapped to the wings — including a cement bomb destined for a training target outside of Pueblo —  Lt. Col. Kurt Tongren climbed into the cockpit of the F-16 Fighting Falcon Tuesday morning.

Shortly before 10 a.m., the Colorado Air National Guard pilot wheeled onto a runway at Buckley Air Force Base and zoomed south into the Aurora sky, heading toward a Southern Colorado practice bombing range.

It’s a scene that plays out regularly at the sprawling air base on Aurora’s eastern edge and one local lawmakers hope will continue well into the future, possibly with more-modern jets.

But to do that — and ensure that the base continues to thrive and grow — officials say it’s crucial that Buckley avoid the sorts of problems that eventually helped lead to the closure of Lowry Air Force Base in 1994, namely nearby development encroaching too close to the base and its loud jets for anyone’s comfort.

Earlier this month, Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, asked Congress for an additional $15 million for the base’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Program, known as REPI. Through the program, the base purchases parcels of land near its borders, creating a buffer zone that keeps homes and business from getting too close to the base.

“This $15.8 million increase in REPI funding ensures that Buckley can continue to be a base for our Air National Guard’s fighter aircraft for decades to come,” Coffman said in a statement.

The base’s importance to the city’s economy is tough to overstate. According to the Aurora Economic Development Council, the 11,000 employees at the base make it Aurora’s biggest employer. And last year it pumped more than $1 billion into the local economy, according to the Air Force’s estimate.

“Buckley is absolutely vital to our local economy and to our national security, and I am pleased that this funding will be included in the 2017 (National Defense Authorization Act),” Coffman said.

To keep the installation thriving, the Air Force in recent years has purchased several swaths of land around the base, ensuring those parcels remain.

Read the complete article here.

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The information above is for general awareness only and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Office of Economic Adjustment or the Department of Defense as a whole.