In Case You Missed It: Retired Marine Major General Urges Congress To Expand Flights At DCA To Give Military Personnel Better Access To Nation’s Capital

In case you missed it, Juan Ayala, a retired major general in the United States Marine Corps and the director of San Antonio’s Office of Military and Veterans Affairs, published an op-ed in the San Antonio Express-News, underscoring the urgent need for Congress to expand flights at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) to provide military personnel with better access to the nation’s capital and vital government agencies.

Due to the outdated perimeter rule, San Antonio – also known as “Military City, USA” – does not have a nonstop flight to DCA. DCA is in proximity to the Pentagon, Capitol Hill and other crucial defense agencies, which is significant given San Antonio and Joint Base San Antonio’s (JBSA) pivotal role in our national security through medical research, cybersecurity and intelligence.

Having no direct flights strains military resources due to the cost and inconvenience of connecting flights. Ayala estimates that a nonstop flight option to DCA would save up to 500,000 man-hours, benefitting 80,000 active-duty military members, the 266 mission partners associated with JBSA and the 130,000 yearly passengers that fly between San Antonio and DCA.

Ayala notes there is encouraging bipartisan momentum in the U.S. Senate to modernize this protectionist policy. Ayala expresses gratitude to the Texas delegation for their efforts in advocating for change. He urges U.S. Senators from both sides of the aisle to support adding flights at DCA and provide critical access to the nation’s capital for our military personnel.

Read the entire piece HERE and below:

Make Nonstop Flights To Reagan National A Reality
San Antonio Express-News
Juan Ayala
August 15, 2023

The city of San Antonio and our congressional delegation have demonstrated they go above and beyond to support the military here. Still, broader congressional action is needed to secure a nonstop flight to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

Tens of thousands of military personnel fly between Military City, USA, and the nation’s capital every year. Still, due to a restrictive federal law, those personnel are required to make connections through other airports if they want to arrive at Reagan, which is just minutes from the Pentagon. Congress should allow for this nonstop flight in the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization consideration.

Although the House voted recently not to expand flights at Reagan, the fight is far from over. Legislation to include the provision awaits in the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, on which U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is the ranking member.

San Antonio’s support of the armed forces is unique among the U.S. communities that host military installations. Joint Base San Antonio’s national importance and economic influence is unparalleled in size and geographic location. JBSA supports 266 mission partners and employs about 80,000 active-duty members and civilian employees.

Its missions include cybersecurity, aviation, medical research and homeland defense. Brooke Army Medical Center is the Department of Defense’s only Level I trauma center. Many of the medical teams that treated casualties on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan were trained there. Outside the installation, the Audie Murphy Memorial Veterans’ Hospital and the Kerrville VA Medical Center serve one of the nation’s largest veteran and retiree populations.

With the nation’s second-largest cyber footprint, San Antonio is also home to NSA-Texas, which provides cybersecurity and intelligence support to all federal agencies across the mainland and the globe.

The lack of nonstop flights to Reagan airport drains our large military community of precious time and financial resources. Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport provides quick access to the Pentagon, Crystal City, Capitol Hill and other key government agencies. Military members are a significant contributor to the roughly 130,000 passengers who fly from San Antonio to Reagan National. We estimate a nonstop flight would save up to 500,000 man-hours.

Elected officials on both sides of the aisle have worked tirelessly for years to make this flight a reality. With the FAA reauthorization under consideration, the current effort and attention to this issue by Sens. Cruz and John Cornyn, as well as U.S. Reps. Chip Roy, Joaquin Castro, Henry Cuellar, Tony Gonzales, Lloyd Doggett and Greg Casar, is appreciated. It is past time for Congress to act and not limit airlines’ ability to make nonstop flights from San Antonio to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

Retired Marine Maj. Gen. Juan Ayala is director of the city’s Office of Military & Veteran Affairs.

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