The base that retained its primary mission—operating B-1B bombers—when the Air Force wanted to strip it away as part of BRAC 2005 now has secured a major new Air Force finance center. The Air Force has selected Ellsworth AFB, S.D., as the preferred site for the Air Force Financial Services Center, at which USAF wants to consolidate financial services. The new center, expected to open in Fiscal 2008, would comprise a central processing center and 24-hour contact center, employing up to 775 civilian and military personnel. Air Force officials believe the new center will save the service more than $200 million in its first 10 years of operation. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who vigorously fought elimination of the base’s B-1 bombers, said in a statement this was the “first of several new missions” he hopes to line up. Working with Thune, the Democratic members of the South Dakota Congressional delegation—Sen. Tim Johnson and Rep. Stephanie Herseth—also vowed to continue to find additional missions for Ellsworth.
Three B-1B Lancers from the 7th Bomb Wing flew over the Indo-Pacific alongside F-16s from the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force as part of a joint large force exercise. The mission began and ended in the continental U.S. The bombers flew 31 hours and landed Jan. 11.