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Impending defense cuts would cause the United States Air Force to furlough nearly 180,000 civilian employees across the globe, costing critical personnel nearly $8,000 each, or $1.4 billion in total, according to Air Force projections.
Nearly $500 billion in looming defense cuts, known as sequestration, are expected to imperil critical defenses by forcing the Air Force to markedly reduce weapon system sustainment and reduce the number of hours that pilots fly their aircraft.
These cuts would impact the economy of every U.S. state, as more than 500 military construction projects that provide jobs to hundreds of thousands of workers would be canceled or deferred.
The Air Force is additionally facing a $1.8 billion shortfall for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), which mainly target terrorists across the globe, and is being forced to cope with $12.4 billion in reductions that “will have drastic, long lasting impacts,” according to internal assessments.
“The budget uncertainty resulting from our ‘challenges’ has caused the Air Force to take actions to reduce spending,” Vanessa Bolin, an Air Force liaison in the House of Representatives, informed lawmakers earlier this week in an email circulated across Capitol Hill.
Air Force bases across the country would bear the brunt of the impact, as employees are initially furloughed for up to 22 days, according to Air Force projections.
States that rely heavily on their military industry would be particularly hard hit.
Thirty-six maintenance repair programs at bases across economically ailing California have already been deferred, according to the Air Force.
These include multiple repair programs at Beale Air Force Base, Edwards Air Force Base, Travis Air Force Base, and Vandenberg Air Force Base.
Nearly 11,000 civilian Air Force members would be furloughed in California, which equates to about $83 million in lost pay according to Air Force projections.
Alaska, another state that heavily relies on its military industry, would also face cutbacks. Thirteen maintenance projects have already been deferred at the state’s multiple bases.
Texas, Florida, and North Carolina will also face severe phasedowns.
More than 16,000 Texan civilian employees would face furloughs equaling about $127 million in lost pay, according to the Air Force. It anticipates slashing nearly 30 construction projects, including repairs to facility toilets and showers.
More than 12,000 civilians in Florida would be placed on the chopping block, draining nearly $100 million from their collective wallets. Thirty-five projects at the state’s multiple air bases have been slated for deferment.
Overseas operations would also be impacted.
Air bases in South Korea, Japan, Germany, and the Arctic also would have to put multiple maintenance projects on ice.
Former Defense Department officials warned that sequestration would harm America’s nascent economic recovery and lead to a military that is unprepared to defend the country.
“Welcome back to the late 1970s—a bad economy, a hollowed-out military and a declining America on the world stage,” said Gary Schmitt, a former Defense Department consultant.
Steven Bucci, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense, believes the Air Force should have released these projections earlier.
“Why did they not raise these issues until now?” asked Bucci, director of the Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation. “Pre-election, everyone basically said, ‘We can live with these cuts. We don’t like them, but we could still execute our strategy.’
“Heritage was saying back then that this was bunk,” Bucci said.
“Sequestration will be a huge killer of readiness and capability, and will certainly eliminate even the little bit of modernization out there now,” he said. “It will put America at risk.”