Tuesday, February 19, 2013

TOP STORY >> Boozman: Base a star

Leader senior staff writer

Congress isn’t likely to agree on alternative cost-cutting measures in time to head off sequestration — automatic budget cutting — on March 1, Sen. John Boozman (R-Republican) said Tuesday afternoon. But he said Little Rock Air Force Base is too strong and its mission too important to be severely hurt by those cuts. (See editorial, page 6A.)

“At some point, the Senate is going to have to pass a bill so it can go into conference with the House and work out some details,” the senator said.

Boozman said he believed the military was being disproportionately cut. “We want to redistribute where the cuts are coming from.”

Boozman, who met jointly and separately with the commanders of the four wings at the base, called the base “the superstar of the world for C-130s.”

“Lift capacity is always needed,” he said.

“Little Rock Air Force Base has a great story to tell,” he added.

“Central Arkansas and Arkansas depend on the base, as does the whole country,” he said of the pilot, crew and maintainer training, as well as the expeditionary 19th Airlift Wing, which provides airlift in support of military excursions and humanitarian efforts around the world.

He said he doesn’t believe sequestration or alternative budget cuts threaten the Air Force’s procurement of the state-of-the-art C-130Js. He added that he hoped that some sort of avionics upgrade for the older C-130s is still possible. “I would like to see an avionics upgrade go forward,” he said.

And, he said, no other base has the kind of community support that Little Rock Air Force Base has, as evidenced by the base’s winning of the Abilene Trophy for Air Mobility Wing base with greatest community support.


“We’re spending an extra trillion dollars a year. Forty-five cents of every dollar we spend is either borrowed or we’re printing it. You just can’t continue to do that forever. The military is taking the brunt of the cuts. It needs to be spread among everything.

“The super committee came up with a bunch of agreements, but couldn’t come up with a final agreement,” he said.

Boozman said members of the Arkansas congressional delegation fought unsuccessfully to keep the A-10 fighters at Fort Smith, but that the base there would convert to a center for unmanned aircraft.


“The threat is not the old Soviet-style threat, so the military is changing,” Boozman said.

With sequestration looming large, all governmental agencies — including the Air Force — are trying to figure out what they can most afford to axe or reduce in order to meet these mandatory budget cuts.

Sequestration, or automatic budget cuts, could start next week.

Unless Congress acts to make different cuts, the reduction of $1.2 trillion over a decade would be split evenly between defense and domestic spending.

In order to increase the 2011 U.S. debt ceiling so the government could pay its bills, Republicans insisted on $2 trillion in budget cuts. About half of that has been made, leaving the rest to be implemented now.


If sequestration occurs, it would cause the Air Force to have a $12.4 billion shortfall this year, “compounded by another $1.8 billion in overseas contingency operations, Air Force Vice Chief of Staff, Gen. Larry Spencer and Jamie Morin, the acting under secretary of the Air Force, told the press in Washington earlier this month.

Air Force-wide, additional cuts could include irreversible actions, Morin and Spencer said, including one measure that would halt “all but emergency facility repairs across the force.”

That could affect more than 400 projects across more than 140 bases, but result, they said, in only about $2.9 billion in savings.

Aircraft overdue for depot maintenance would be grounded until funds to service them become available later, Morin said.

That will result in serious inefficiency and reduction in operational capabilities, Morin said.