Friday, January 27, 2012

TOP STORY >> Griffin applauds base community

Leader staff writer

Rep. Tim Griffin (R.-Ark.) told a packed house at the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce annual banquet Thursday night that the community had set the standard when it came to having a positive relationship with a military base.

“I know you would think all communities are that way, but they are not. The standard is here and we want the country to know it,” the freshman Republican representative said.

Besides talking about how well Jacksonville and central Arkansas embraces Little Rock Air Force Base, Griffin also brought up some budget concerns and his reasoning why the big problems aren’t being resolved.

Griffin, the chamber’s guest speaker for a second year in a row, said he and his staff recently sat down and came up with a list of what set Jacksonville and its relationship with Little Rock Air Force Base apart from other military communities.

“We came up with five major points. First, here the air base is a generational priority. It’s been important for decades. Your relationship is rooted in history, and the community has been involved from the beginning,” he said.

The second point, the congressman said, was how well the civilian and military population work together. “There is a seamless transition.”

Thirdly, he pointed out that there is a shared standard. He said both the base and the city live up to the Air Force’s high expectations and pursuit of excellence.

Next, he said was the city’s tireless advocacy for the base and the military, and finally, the extended family feelings. “The community’s warm embrace of the base and its members bring a lot of members back when they get out or retire,” Griffin said.

Earlier in the day, information was released about major military budget cuts that President Obama had announced. “The thing we have to remember is the President’s budget is the first word, not the final,” Griffin said.

He said the President got no Democratic votes in the Senate on his last budget. “The president’s budget is a starting point for discussion. Should we be concerned? Yes, but there’s no need to hyperventilate. I caution people and remind people that the President’s budget is not the final word, only his vision. If he wants a program killed, it doesn’t mean we are killing it.”

Griffin did say his efforts to purchase more flight-training simulators in the last budget did fail.

“Those were not earmarks because they weren’t specifically for LRAFB, but were for the Air Force in general. I still think spending a few million on simulators can save a lot on wear and tear of aircraft. Making more training available is a good thing—better then buying gas flying around,” he bemoaned.

The Pentagon is looking at cutting the avionics modernization program that updates the technology on older C-130s. “I’m an advocate for it because it ultimately saves money,” Griffin said. “It gets rid f the navigator position and extends the life of an aircraft you already own. It’s a good use of our taxpayers’ money.”

So far four C-130s have been upgraded through the program and all those aircraft are at LRAFB.

While Griffin was the main speaker, the banquet was also the time for the outgoing chairman of the board to pass the gavel to the new chamber leaders.

Jason Wilkinson, after holding down the chairmanship for two years, passed the team over to the new chairman, Joey Urquhart.

Other new officers for 2012 include Larry Biernacki, vice chairman; Daniel Gray, treasurer, and new board members David Copeland, Lauren Fowler, Carol Langston, Andy Patel, Jay Quebedeaux, Terry Ray, Matt Robinson, Roger Sundermeier, Val Yagos and Larry Wilson.