Friday, August 23, 2013

EDITORIAL >> Area thrives despite cuts

Though some airmen and civilian employees from Little Rock Air Force Base were forced to take unpaid leave in recent weeks because of budget cuts, the area is still getting a boost from several federal projects that are underway.

On Wednesday, a delegation from the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs visited a site in Jacksonville that is a frontrunner to be a new $25 million home for veterans. City officials emphasized Jacksonville’s dedication as a military community.

The city is offering 57 acres of land with utilities off General Samuels Road for free to build the home.

“No one in this state, no one in this country, supports the armed forces like we do. We’re going to keep doing it. We believe that the best site is here,” Rep. Mike Wilson told the group on Wednesday during a tour of the site near the air base’s front gate.

Benton, Fort Smith, Russellville and Searcy have also made proposals to win the veterans home, but Jacksonville’s offer will surely impress Cissy Rucker, director of the state Department of Veterans Affairs, who will decide where to build the home for at least 100 veterans.

The project is expected to create dozens of jobs, which would be refreshing after the city’s unsuccessful bid to attract the State Fair.

We also reported this week that Maj. Gen. Margaret Woodward delivered the base’s first C-130J to come here in four years. In the age of sequestration, furloughs and budget cuts, a new plane reaffirms the importance of LRAFB, which is the underpinning of central Arkansas’ economy.

Also recently reported in these pages was Col. Edsel (Archie) Frye’s successful effort to build up the Air Force Reserve Command, which he heads. The group, formed in 2011, will soon have nearly 1,000 reservists and possibly become a standalone Air Force wing.

“Our recruiting efforts have shattered expectations,” Col. Fry said.

The Air National Guard is also thriving despite civilian jobs being cut and reducing officers in other wings.

When Congress realizes the harm it has caused through sequestration, we expect the area will have even more to look forward to.