Friday, September 11, 2015

EDITORIAL >> More C-130s from Keesler

Second District Rep. French Hill (R-Little Rock) wants to bring all 10 C-130Js at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi to Little Rock Air Force Base, saving taxpayers $60 million to $100 million over five years.

That would be a welcome boost for our air base, which will mark its 60th anniversary next month.

Moving Keesler’s airlifters to LRAFB makes sense. The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Paul J. Selva, also supports the plan because of the huge savings. “In these challenging fiscal times, our military needs to be as efficient and effective as possible. If Little Rock makes the most sense logistically, then we need to have these planes stationed there,” Selva told a congressional committee.

That’s coming from one of the highest-ranking officers at the Pentagon. Hill says a simple cost analysis convinced him it’s a good move. The Air Force should move those planes here as soon as possible.

Hill, a freshman, is a former banker who has pledged to slash federal spending and has supported sequestration, which haphazardly pulled money from the military and caused problems for LRAFB.

Hill occupies the seat once held by Vic Snyder, a low-key Democrat and doctor, who perhaps brought more money to the air base than any other congressman in the state’s history. From infrastructure improvements to helping to usher in the era of C-130Js, Snyder’s work, and others’, helped make the base BRAC-proof so long as the C-130 cargo planes stay integral to military operations worldwide.

During a recent visit with constituents at North Metro Medical Center, Hill said it was time LRAFB took Keesler’s C-130s. It’s a good idea, but folks may have expected to hear a few words about how Congress might help the struggling hospital.

If it weren’t for the Affordable Care Act, which expanded Medicaid to millions of Americans and came to be known as Obamacare, North Metro Medical Center would have closed by now. Airmen, as well as thousands of Jacksonville and Cabot residents, rely on its emergency room.

Hill frequently criticizes health-care reform even as it has saved money for the state and federal governments and brought more revenue to hospitals providing needed medical services for people. It’s certain that next time Hill is in Jacksonville, he can stop by the air base. North Metro’s future is less secure.