Friday, January 11, 2013

TOP STORY >> Governor touts Air Force base, offers his help

Leader senior staff writer

The General Assembly will consider two bills proposed by Gov. Mike Beebe that would be good for service members and their families, particularly those at Little Rock Air Force Base. The bill would put the base in a better position when the next round of base closures is considered.

That was the message the governor pushed at Camp Robinson Thursday at a meeting of the community councils of the state’s various military installations.

Congress looks at the welfare of service people at a base as well as of their families during the base realignment and closure process, he said.

An interstate education compact would make it easier for the school-aged children, who as the result of military transfers, find themselves in new school districts. He is proposing legislation that would make those transfers and transfers of course credits easier.


Beebe also wants a law that would recognize certifications and licenses from other states for military spouses transferred to Arkansas bases and camps. For instance, it would recognize nursing licenses and teaching certificates issued by other states.

Most of the active-duty military members in the state are stationed at LRAFB. Those in the National Guard and Reserves usually aren’t transferred.

“We are soldier and soldiers’ families friendly,” Beebe said.

“If the Air Force and the Pentagon look at the efficiencies, they’ll leave the 188th National Guard A-10 fighter wing at Fort Smith in tact, and minimize any reductions in force at Little Rock Air Force Base,” the governor told the group.

The 2013 National Defense Authorization Act appears to cut the size of the 19th Airlift Wing’s C-130 fleet by 16 planes, while leaving the 314th Air Education and Training Command Wing about the same and growing the Reserves and National Guard stationed at the base.

“You talk about the 188th in Fort Smith, there’s probably not a more efficient A-10 outfit in America,” Beebe said.

“If you don’t think the National Guard is capable of fulfilling on an equal basis the missions with their full-time counterparts, then why are we sending them to Afghanistan in the first place?” the governor said. “They’re going side by side.”

Based on efficiencies, “if you’re going to leave one A-10 outfit in the whole world, it ought to be the 188th,” he said.

That wing trains at a range that is within minutes of its base. They don’t have to fly across half a state, or two states, to get to a range. They don’t have to spend additional money on fuel.

“Given the fact that a lot of the personnel aren’t full time personnel, that’s another savings,” Beebe said.


As a member of the six- person executive council of the National Governor’s Association, Beebe went to Washington late last year to tell Congress to not let the country go over the fiscal cliff and to make necessary budget cuts equitable.

For instance, he told them not to cut federal funding used to pay for mandates without cutting the mandates to states would have to continue funding.

“There’s going to be some sacrifice on all our parts, but make sure the cuts are fair and not disproportionately on the backs of some of us,” he said.


Second Dist. Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Little Little Rock) said that if the cuts do occur, he hopes that some of the 36 unassigned C-130s included in the act would end up assigned to the base and to the 19th Airlift Wing.

Speaking of President Obama’s suggestion that he might issue new gun laws by executive order, Griffin said, “Politically, he’s going about it all wrong. There’s already a general feeling based on facts that this president has misused his executive authority.”

“They know that people have a mistrust of him,” Griffin continued.

“Why would you come out and say that? I’m sure they have a grand plan in mind,” he said.