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Ellington Field

Ellington Field (EFD) is a joint use civil/military airport. Acquired by the City of Houston in 1984, Ellington now supports the operations of the United States military, NASA, Continental Express, United Parcel Service and general aviation. The airport is home to the largest flying club in Texas and is the site of the annual Wings Over Houston Airshow. Ellington Field is located approximately 15 miles south of downtown Houston, near I-45/Gulf Freeway, the major highway heading from the City to NASA and Galveston Island. The airport is operated and maintained by the Houston Airport System.

Established during World War I, Ellington Field is the only military air installation in this part of Texas. It was named after Lt. Eric L. Ellington who was killed in a plane crash in San Diego in 1913. In 1917 Ellington became one of the largest aviation training facilities in the nation. Before World War I ended, approximately 5,000 men and 250 aircraft occupied the base. Pilots and bombardiers were trained at Ellington, and there was a gunnery and radio school there. Men who trained at Ellington were assigned to combat posts in Europe.

As history would have it, during the succeeding years Ellington gradually fell into decline. The base was in a standby status until 1927, the year it was razed by fire and subsequently closed.

The imminence of World War II prompted Congress to appropriate $7 million to rebuild the base. Nine months after construction began, on June 26, 1941, the first plane landed at the newly constructed Ellington Field. Shortly thereafter the military began training pilots and bombardiers again for combat. With the U.S. in the throes of war, manpower at the base climbed once again to 5,000 personnel.

Ellington Field became Ellington Air Force Base in September 1947 when the U.S. Air Force was designated a separate service. Ellington was again fully activated in 1949 as the only post-war U.S. Air Force navigator training school. When the Korean War began in 1950, Ellington resumed its duties of training men for war.

By 1976 the command of Ellington Field had changed hands several times. The 147th Fighter Interceptor Group (ANG) was designated by the Air Force to handle the phase-down transition. The last student of combat crew training was graduated by the 147th group on May 4, 1976, the year Ellington was deactivated by the Air Force.

On July 1, 1984, some 63 years after the military installation opened, Ellington Field was taken over by the City of Houston Department of Aviation. Today, the military still occupies a strong presence there, along with NASA. Additionally, Ellington serves as a base for corporate, commercial, cargo and private aviation operations.

Located on Ellington Field, approx. 15 miles south of Houston Texas, Air Station Houston is poised for any mission, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Flying the HH-65A Dolphin, Air Station Houston conducts life saving missions to the Texas and Louisiana coast

On 23 December 1963 Coast Guard Air Station Houston was commissioned. Located on one acre at Ellington AFB, 17 miles SE of downtown Houston. Two HH-52 helicopters, seven officer/pilots, and 18 enlisted mechanics/aircrewmen set up shop in 24,000 foot hangar built in 1942 CDR David W. Difreest, Commanding Officer. An alternative site at Scholes Field, Galveston TX, was considered up until the actual commissioning at Ellington. AIRSTA's commissioning coincides with the beginning of development of Clear Lake City as a business and residential community surrounding the blossoming NASA complex, then called the Manned Spacecraft Center.

Air Station Houston supported Operation Desert Shield/Storm with numerous overflights of loading areas, the Houston Ship Channel, and the strategic oil reserve in Freeport, TX. Over three Army divisions deployed from the Houston area during this conflict with Iraq. All personnel assigned to the station were awarded the National Defense Service Medal.

Air Station Houston achieved a new record for the number of SAR cases prosecuted in one 12-month period. During fiscal year 1999, the Air Station responded to 301 SAR cases.

In June 2001 Air Station Houston played a major role in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Allison. With over 80 hoists throughout the 24 hour period, the Air Station was a major factor in the lives of many Houstonians. The flooding occured four days after the initial storm. Four days prior, during the throws of the storm, an Air Station Houston helicopter flew into the storm through 65+ knot winds to perform a medevac.

BRAC 2005

Secretary of Defense Recommendation: In its 2005 BRAC Recommendations, DoD recommended to realign Ellington Field AGS. The 147th Fighter Wing's F-16s (15 aircraft) would retire. The wing's expeditionary combat support (ECS) elements would remain in place. Ellington would retain the capability to support the Homeland Defense mission. The 272d Engineering Installation Squadron, an ANG geographically separated unit would move into available space on Ellington.

Secretary of Defense Justification: Ellington (80) ranked low in military value. The reduction in F-16 force structure and the need to align common versions of the F-16 at the same bases argued for allowing Ellington's F-16s to retire in place with no fighter mission backfill. Ellington would be realigned to preserve the homeland defense Air Sovereignty Alert (ASA) site using aircraft assigned elsewhere and operating from Ellington on a rotational basis as tasked by US Northern Command. In a related recommendation, the Lackland Air Force Base, Texas Air National Guard F-16 initial training unit was increased in size to capitalize on Ellington's trained pilots and maintainers.

The total estimated one-time cost to the Department of Defense to implement this recommendation would be $1.6M. The net of all costs and savings to the Department during the implementation period would be a savings of $0.1M. Annual recurring savings to the Department after implementation would be $0.4M with a payback expected in five years. The net present value of the costs and savings to the Department over 20 years would be a savings of $3.6M. Assuming no economic recovery, this recommendation could result in a maximum potential reduction of 5 jobs (3 direct jobs and 2 indirect jobs) over the 2006-2011 in the Houston-Baytown-Sugar Land, TX, Metropolitan Statistical economic area (less than 0.1 percent).

Community Concerns: The community objected to DoD's recommendation to remove all F-16s and convert the facility into an Air Sovereignty Alert (ASA) site with only two aircraft. They disputed DoD's military value analysis calculations, costs, and claimed the region's homeland security would be placed at risk because the 147th is the area's main source of homeland defense. Ellington's MCI score would be higher if ramp space and surge capacity had been evaluated accurately. They also asserted the recommendation will increase costs with no corresponding synergy benefits. If the ASA mission is provided by another unit, increased costs will include $2500 to $3500 per flying hour, and operating an ASA not associated with an existing unit will add approximately $4 million annual costs. The impact of a terrorist attack in the area could have national ramifications because major industries produce 25 percent of the US gasoline supply and also include the Port of Houston.

Commission Findings: The Commission found that the Department of Defense recommendation to realign Ellington Air Guard Station should be supported despite community concerns related to homeland security and the base's military value. The Commission recognized the high number of sensitive facilities in the Houston area. The Commission agreed with the alert posture plan developed by the Department of Defense to station fighters at Ellington for Air Sovereignty Alert (ASA) on a rotational basis. The Commission also understands that the Air National Guard F-16 inventory must be reduced.

This recommendation directing aircraft movement and personnel actions in connection with Air National Guard installations and organizations is designed to support the Future Total Force. The Commission expects that the Air Force will find new missions where needed, provide retraining opportunities, and take appropriate measures to limit possible adverse personnel impact. The Commission's intent is that the Air Force will act to assign sufficient aircrew and maintenance personnel to units gaining aircraft in accordance with current, established procedures. However, the Commission expects that all decisions with regard to manpower authorizations will be made in consultation with the governor of the state in which the affected Air National Guard unit is located. Any manpower changes must be made under existing authorities, and must be made consistent with existing limitations. Some reclassification of existing positions may be necessary, but should not be executed until the Air Force and the state have determined the future mission of the unit to preclude unnecessary personnel turbulence. This recommendation is consistent with the Commission's Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Laydown Plan.

Commission Recommendations: The Commission found that the Secretary of Defense deviated substantially from final selection criteria 1 and 2, as well as from the Force Structure Plan. Therefore, the Commission recommends the following:

Realign Ellington Field Air Guard Station, TX. Distribute the 15 F-16 aircraft assigned to the 147th Fighter Wing (ANG) to meet the Primary Aircraft Authorizations (PAA) requirements established by the Base Closure and Realignment recommendations of the Secretary of Defense, as amended by the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission.

Establish a contiguous enclave for the 147th Fighter Wing (ANG) sufficient to support operations of that unit, including flight operations, and compatible with joint use of Ellington Field as a civilian airport.

If the State of Texas decides to change the organization, composition and location of the 147th Fighter Wing (ANG) to integrate the unit into the Future Total Force, all personnel allotted to the 147th Fighter Wing (ANG), including the unit's Expeditionary Combat Support (ECS) elements, will remain in place and assume a mission relevant to the security interests of the State of Texas and consistent with the integration of the unit into the Future Total Force, including but not limited to air mobility, C4ISR, Information Operations, engineering, flight training or unmanned aerial vehicles. Where appropriate, unit personnel will be retrained in skills relevant to the emerging mission.

This recommendation does not effect a change to the authorized end-strength of the Texas Air National Guard. The distribution of aircraft currently assigned to the 147th Fighter Wing (ANG) is based upon a resource-constrained determination by the Department of Defense that the aircraft concerned will better support national security requirements in other locations and is not conditioned upon the agreement of the state. Ellington retains the capability to support the homeland defense mission. The 272d Engineering Installation Squadron, an ANG geographically separated unit, moves into available space on Ellington.

The Commission found that this change and the recommendation as amended are consistent with the final selection criteria and the Force Structure Plan. The full text of this and all Commission recommendations can be found in Appendix Q.


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