Tuesday, March 17, 2015

EDITORIAL >> French lessons on the air base

Freshman Rep. French Hill (R-Little Rock) visited Little Rock Air Force Base last week and warned about tough times ahead for the military as spending cuts — or sequestration in government jargon — could hit our base with reduction in personnel and airplanes.

Deficit hawks in Washington are determined to reduce the federal budget across the board, including defense spending. Hill appears to be part of the House faction that wants to cut spending in all departments. “I believe the Congress should have the ability to spend money more appropriately, including the military,” he said.

Hill’s visit came days after approximately 90 members from the 19th Maintenance Squadron, 314th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 19th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and 19th Logistics Readiness Squadron left in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan.

Our representatives continue to send our military into harm’s way — LRAFB airmen have been deployed overseas nonstop since 9/11 — but the Pentagon has been told to cut spending and reduce personnel to the lowest level since the Second World War.

Budget cutbacks and another round of sequestration could slow modernization and infrastructure replacement at the base. Fortunately, three major projects worth $133.6 million are underway here and due for completion by 2017.

The projects include rebuilding a 50-year-old runway and adjacent landing strip at a cost of $108 million, replacing the fuel maintenance hangar for $21.4 million and construction of a fifth C-130J simulator for $4.2 million.

Sequestration will hit our base hard, as Col. Patrick Rhatigan, commander of the 19th Airlift Wing, has warned. No multi-million projects appear on the horizon. Rep. Hill should listen to the commanders at the air base and reach out to the men and women who are in Afghanistan and Iraq before voting to cut the Air Force budget.