Friday, May 03, 2013

EDITORIAL >> Those cuts on air base

More than 600 civilian employees at Little Rock Air Force Base are hoping the Pentagon and Congress will find a way to avoid furloughs that could reduce salaries by about 20 percent, probably starting sometime this month.

The furloughs were to have started March 1, but the Pentagon delayed implementation to study the impact of sequestration on personnel.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is reportedly planning to ask Congress for permission to move millions of dollars in the military budget that would allow about 800,000 civilians who work for the military to work full-time. If an agreement is reached, it would be similar to a deal that allowed the Federal Aviation Administration to end furloughs for air-traffic controllers, which created delays at airports.

The furloughs and other cutbacks in the military budget were triggered by the inability of Congress to reach a budget agreement, costing the Defense Department an estimated $46 billion for the fiscal year. The Pentagon had previously agreed to reduce spending an additional $50 billion a year. The military is taking the biggest hits in the latest round of budget cuts.

According to The Leader’s John Hofheimer, sequestration cuts at the air base include reorganizing the four wings to increase savings through efficiency, according to Brig. Gen. (Select) Brian Robinson, 19th Airlift Wing commander.

The 19th Airlift Wing is cutting flying hours by 35 percent. The Air Force, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard have collaborated to reduce active duty C-130s by 28 and both of the 19th Airlift Wing’s C-130H squadrons were proposed for reduction in fiscal year 2014. Increases in the Air Guard and Reserve airframes at the base add eight planes.

LRAFB will continue to receive new C-130Js as originally scheduled, but officials have said the base will probably have fewer old C-130s. Currently six C-130Js and 10 C-130-J variants are included in the proposed 2014 defense budget. The crews and maintainers for those planes will be trained at the base’s C-130J schoolhouse.

The Air Force will continue making cuts in nonessential flying and travel, curtail or stop minor purchases such as furniture and defer non-emergency facility maintenance. A freeze in new civilian hiring is in place. But the hard-working civilians at Little Rock Air Force Base deserve full pay for a full week’s pay. Here’s hoping the Pentagon and Congress will soon find the funds for those 650 civilians on our base.