While Chairing a Hearing on the Air Force's Budget, Durbin Highlights Importance of Scott AFB
Calls on Air Force to Defend Decision to Support Base Closures
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] - U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chairman of the Senate’s Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, spoke today about the critical role Scott Air Force Base has played in ongoing military actions around the globe at a hearing on the Air Force's FY2014 budget request today.
“Scott Air Force Base in southern Illinois is our major air mobility hub, hosting Guard and active duty units as well as U.S. Transportation Command. Members of its Tanker Airlift Control Center have called in emergency medical evacuations for service members injured in Afghanistan … The 126th Air Refueling Wing deployed to contribute to the no-fly zone in Libya. I am very proud that these men and women performing such critical tasks call Illinois their home,” Durbin said. “Our job is to ensure the men and women in uniform are the finest, most skilled fighting forces in the world. It would be a mistake to allow budget pressures to squander their talent.”
Durbin went on to express his deep skepticism of the base closure commission process, and called on the Air Force to share an accounting of the net savings from past base closures.
“Base closure commissions are supposed to take the politicians out of the process. I think they’ve replaced politicians with other politicians,” Durbin said. “I’ve watched five base closure commissions. I want to see actual savings – start to finish – when you’re closing a base; moving the personnel; moving the equipment; reassigning and then assessing how much money you’ve saved as a result of it.”
Durbin has repeatedly expressed his skepticism of base closure commissions and has resisted them in the past. Despite ongoing budget pressures as a result of sequestration, it’s unclear how much money is actually saved in the process. An April 2013 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) criticized the Department for consistently overestimating the cost savings associated with base closures. At today’s hearing, Durbin said money can be saved throughout the Department’s $600 billion budget – including through education programs and for-profit schools and through procurement and development process. He announced two new hearings on both the for-profit issue and on the F-35 joint strike fighter program – a program which is 7 years and more than $164 billion over budget.
The Air Force’s FY2014 budget request is $112.3 billion. The request incudes nearly $30 billion for Air Force personnel – including a 1% pay, 4.2% housing allowance and 3.4% subsistence increase. It also includes $46.5 billion for operations and maintenance; $18.8 billion for procurement; and $17.6 for research and development.
Under sequestration, the Air Force’s budget has been cut by about $7 billion. The Air Force is absorbing these cuts by reducing flying, weapon system sustainment, training, facility sustainment, and by implementing civilian hiring freezes with the potential to furlough.
The Air Force has an active duty force of over 325,000 Airmen, over 100,000 Air National Guardsmen and over 70,000 Air Force Reserve Airmen.
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