The Edmond Sun

November 8, 2013

Oklahoma bases could feel future budget cut pain

Mark Schlachtenhaufen
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — Budget cuts could mean reductions in aircraft, engines, workforce and readiness for all aircraft at Tinker Air Force Base due to availability of spare engines, according to a U.S. senator’s office.

Thursday morning, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, held a hearing with the four service chiefs of the armed forces to discuss the implications past, present and future of defense sequestration.

Inhofe said the service chiefs testified before the House in September about the potential of not having the readiness or the capabilities to succeed in even one major contingency operation if sequestration is allowed to continue.

The commanders for the first time assess that current forces will be unable to support various operational plans around the world, Inhofe said. They have been ordered to revise their plans to reflect reduced budgets despite advances made by adversaries, Inhofe said.

“Put simply, top military leaders are telling us that continued cuts to national security spending are making this country less safe,” Inhofe said.

Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, chief of staff of the Air Force, said sequestration will not hinder the abilities of his branch to deliver when called. But the likelihood of conflict may increase as potential adversaries sense weakness and vulnerability.

Being forced into decisions to balance between a “ready force today” and “a modern force tomorrow” is dangerous for the national defense, Welsh said. He asked Congress to pass funding bills that give commanders stability both in the near term and in the long term.

Also testifying were Admiral Jonathan Greenert, chief of Naval Operations, Gen. James Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Raymond Odierno, chief of staff of the U.S. Army.

Odierno said it is normal for the country to draw down military forces at the close of wars. Now, the nation is drawing down its Army before war is over and at a time when there is grave uncertainty in the international security environment, Odierno said.

During his 37-plus year military career, the U.S. Army has deployed soldiers and fought in more than 10 conflicts including Afghanistan — the longest war in U.S. history. Currently more than 70,000 soldiers are deployed, including nearly 50,000 in Afghanistan, Odierno said. More than 87,000 are forward-stationed across the globe.

Odierno said it is imperative that the nation preserve decision space for the commander-in-chief, the secretary of defense and Congress.  

Sequestration is a set of automatic budget cuts that began in March, according to the White House. These cuts, totaling $1.2 trillion, will be divided among various defense and domestic programs.

Sequester was an idea proposed by President Barack Obama and his team in July 2011 during the debt ceiling debate. The concept was supported by both Democrats and Republicans.

According to Inhofe’s office the president plans to cut more than $1 trillion in the military alone through the 2011 Budget Control Act and the automatic spending cuts.

The results could mean reduced promotion rates, a civilian hiring freeze and a reduction in personnel including: 100,000 fewer active Army personnel, 50,000 fewer Army National Guard troops, 28,000 fewer Air Force personnel and 550 fewer aircraft during a five-year period, according to Inhofe’s office.

His office says future impacts at Tinker Air Force Base could include:

• A reduced number of aircraft that complete depot maintenance;

• A reduced number of engines and aircraft maintained resulting in workforce reduction;

• Decreased readiness for all aircraft due to availability of spare engines;

• Reduced operations and readiness of Guard/Reserve KC-135 aircraft; and

• Reduced operations and readiness for TACAMO and AWACS aircraft; and

Furthermore, the Air Force is preparing to offer voluntary early retirement incentives to about 430 civilian workers at Tinker, according to Inhofe’s office. Impacts also could be felt at other Oklahoma military installations.

Altus Air Force Base could see a decreased number of pilots completing training resulting in lower through-put of personnel and a delay in production in the KC-46.

Fort Sill could see reductions in the number of students trained, the potential loss of a Fires Brigade consisting of 1,400 military personnel, a reduced number of units and impacts to the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant.

The Oklahoma National Guard could see potential reductions in its overall personnel numbers, decreased training and reduced equipment availability and reduced availability to respond to disasters and maintain and operate ground equipment and aircraft.

The state’s large aerospace industry also may be impacted, according to Inhofe’s office.

Oklahoma also has already felt the pain of budget cuts.

In 2012, due to decreases to the military budget, the Air Force cut 1,131 military and civilian personnel in Oklahoma: 948 at Tinker; 109 at Altus; 31 at Vance Air Force Base; and 42 at Will Rogers.

Due to the first round of cuts in 2013 Oklahoma lost 600 positions at Tinker in the 3rd Combat Herd and four KC-135s, experienced a delay in the C-130  Avionics Modernization Program, 200 Boeing jobs and three KC-135s at Altus, according to Inhofe’s office.



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