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Posted on: January 10, 2024

County and City Work to Advocate and Support SJAFB

SJAFB F-15

The Friends of Seymour, an organization that supports the people and mission at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, recently shared news surrounding the recently passed FY2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The FY2024 NDAA discusses the future of the 94 F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft currently stationed at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and provides the Secretary of the Air Force with the authority to retire up to 68 older F-15E aircraft across the force. 

“Seymour Johnson Air Force Base is a vital part of our community,” said Chairman Chris Gurley, Wayne County Board of Commissioners. “This base has a rich history in Wayne County, and we intend to continue that history for generations. The 4th Fighter Wing earned the title ‘Fourth but First’ because this base has always led the way and has proven to be a valuable asset throughout years of national defense. We will continue to work with our local, state, and federal partners and advocate to ensure that Seymour Johnson Air Force Base can continue leading the way and delivering the security that our nation deserves.”

“Announcements like these make us grateful for our partners like the County of Wayne, Wayne County Chamber of Commerce’s Military Affairs Committee, and the Friends of Seymour,” added Mayor Charles Gaylor, City of Goldsboro. “This dedicated team has worked diligently to ensure that Seymour Johnson Air Force Base is a key component of our nation’s defense strategy today, and well into the future. As a city, we stand ready to support every member of Team Seymour and any mission they are asked to execute. We also understand the importance of Team Seymour to our community, and we will continue to advocate for what this incredible partner means to our community and our national defense.“

The original Friends of Seymour press release is included below.

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The Friends of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base* met recently to discuss the implications of the recently passed FY2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on the future of the 94 F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft currently stationed at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base (SJAFB).

The final version of the FY24 NDAA provides the Secretary of the Air Force with authority to retire up to 68 older F-15E aircraft across the force, modifying an original provision that would have prohibited any F-15E divestments.  Each individual jet retirement will require specific Congressional approval.

“While disappointed that a full prohibition on F-15E reductions was not adopted, we appreciate the compromise measure granting more Congressional oversight on retirements,” said Mr. Henry Smith, President of Friends of Seymour Johnson AFB. “This ensures no rash decisions are made regarding one of the backbone fighters of our combat air forces.”

Smith expressed confidence that negotiations would continue, given the tremendous support shown by Wayne County, the City of Goldsboro, the North Carolina Congressional delegation, Governor Cooper, and their partnership with The Roosevelt Group throughout the NDAA process. "We've had consistent backing from Senators Tillis and Budd along with Congressmen Davis, Nickel and Murphy. Together we will keep advocating against divestments.”

The Friends of Seymour group also highlighted the tremendous value offered by ongoing F-15E modernization efforts featuring upgraded radar, avionics, and engines that increase aircraft service life. “Current F-15E upgrades at Seymour Johnson equate to four times the additional life of an F-35 at a fraction of the cost. Their capabilities and affordability merit thorough examination before divesting any assets,” Smith added.

At the same time, the organization expressed understanding of the challenging budget tradeoffs faced by Pentagon leadership amid rising inflation and pressing modernization needs across the joint force. “We appreciate Secretary Kendall’s transparency regarding force structure decisions and commitment that Seymour Johnson remains the center of the F-15E universe,” said Smith. “Maintaining open lines of communication will be key.”

The group’s primary position calls for no F-15E retirements from Seymour Johnson until equivalent replacements are operational on base, which aligns with Department of Defense readiness objectives. "We firmly believe retaining upgraded F-15E strength bolsters our near-peer deterrence posture in the most affordable, logical manner while 5th generation programs systematize," Smith noted.

Congressman Don Davis of North Carolina’s 1st District  affirmed support for the Friends’ perspective. “As a U.S. Air Force veteran, I fully support Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and fought to keep our F-15Es in the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act. Losing aircraft or suffering lengthy delays without a replacement would be devastating,” said Congressman Davis. “With the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act, we still have our work cut out to ensure our community and nation can better sleep understanding that Seymour Johnson Air Force Base plays a critical role in our national defense and keeping the American people safe.” 

The Friends of Seymour Johnson AFB will continue engaging with Congressional and Pentagon leaders on pragmatic solutions for maintaining the long-term viability of critical Strike Eagle capabilities and squadrons at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

*The Friends of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base is an independent 501(c)(6) organization formed by members of the Wayne County community in 2004.  This organization has actively supported the people and mission at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in an effort to secure the relevance and ongoing importance of the base to our country’s national defense capabilities and objectives.

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