MacDill Facing Cuts in People, Flight-Time and Facilities

Col.  Scott DeThomas, commander of MacDill Air Force Base and the 6th Air Mobility Wing.

Col. Scott DeThomas, commander of MacDill Air Force Base and the 6th Air Mobility Wing.

The home to U-S Central Command, U-S Special Operations Command and the 6th Air Mobility Wing, MacDill Air Force Base, is readying for mandatory civilian furloughs, reduced flight time and postponed building projects.

If sequestration – Congress’ mandatory budget cuts – goes into effect Friday, no state or facility will escape the shockwave.

Most of the 3,000 civilian workers at MacDill Air Force Base will essentially take a 20 percent cut in pay. Sequestration mandates that they take a weekly, one-day furlough beginning in late April through September.

Col. Scott DeThomas, commander of MacDill and the 6th Air Mobility Wing, employs about 1,000 of those civilians at MacDill.

“The sense of urgency goes up March 1st since the fiscal year is half over,” DeThomas said. “A 10 percent cut over a 12 month period is not so bad, but when you do it in a short time like we’re about to face it has a much more dramatic impact.”

In addition to civilian furloughs, more than $6 million in maintenance and construction projects on base will be postponed and flying hours for the 16 KC-135 refueling tankers and three Gulf Stream jets will be cut 20 percent.

DeThomas was even more certain about the fate of MacDill’s Air Fest scheduled the weekend of April 6th and 7th.

“The Air Fest is pretty close to being canceled. We’re not officially there yet, but actually very close,” DeThomas said late Friday. “The money that we’ve committed already was minimal up to this point. Our next big outlay of funds would be March 5th.”

But prior to that date, DeThomas anticipates the Air Force will cancel all upcoming air shows as part of it’s mandate to cut $20 billion by the end of the current fiscal year.


Panetta Memo to Defense Personnel on Sequestration

Leon E. Panetta appears before the Senate Armed Services Committee during confirmation hearings June 9, 2011. (Defense Department photo)

Leon E. Panetta appears before the Senate Armed Services Committee during confirmation hearings June 9, 2011. (Defense Department photo)

The automatic budget cuts – known as sequestration – are set to be implemented March 1, 2013,  just a week away.

With that deadline nearing, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta released the following:

“To All Department of Defense Personnel:

“For more than a year and a half, the president, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and I have repeatedly voiced our deep concerns over the half a trillion dollars in automatic across-the-board cuts that would be imposed under sequestration and the severe damage that would do both to this department and to our national defense.

“The administration continues to work with Congress to reach agreement on a balanced deficit reduction plan to avoid these cuts.  Meanwhile, because another trigger for sequestration is approaching on March 1, the department’s leadership has begun extensive planning on how to implement the required spending reductions.  Those cuts will be magnified because the department has been forced to operate under a six-month continuing resolution that has already compelled us to take steps to reduce spending.

“In the event of sequestration we will do everything we can to be able to continue to perform our core mission of providing for the security of the United States, but there is no mistaking that the rigid nature of the cuts forced upon this department, and their scale, will result in a serious erosion of readiness across the force.

“I have also been deeply concerned about the potential direct impact of sequestration on you and your families.  We are doing everything possible to limit the worst effects on DoD personnel — but I regret that our flexibility within the law is extremely limited.  The president has used his legal authority to exempt military personnel funding from sequestration, but we have no legal authority to exempt civilian personnel funding from reductions.  As a result, should sequestration occur and continue for a substantial period, DoD will be forced to place the vast majority of its civilian workforce on administrative furlough.

“Today, I notified Congress that furloughs could occur under sequestration.  I can assure you that, if we have to implement furloughs, all affected employees will be provided at least 30 days’ notice prior to executing a furlough and your benefits will be protected to the maximum extent possible.  We also will work to ensure that furloughs are executed in a consistent and appropriate manner, and we will also continue to engage in discussions with employee unions as appropriate.

“Working with your component heads and supervisors, the department’s leaders will continue to keep you informed.  As we deal with these difficult issues, I want to thank you for your patience, your hard work, and your continued dedication to our mission of protecting the country.

“Our most important asset at the department is our world-class personnel.  You are fighting every day to keep our country strong and secure, and rest assured that the leaders of this department will continue to fight with you and for you.”

Tammy Duckworth Named as One to Shake Up Congress

Tammy Duckworth arriving for her speech at University of South Florida Oct 12, 2010.

Tammy Duckworth arriving for her speech at University of South Florida Oct 12, 2010.

An news article by US News names former assistant secretary at the VA and Iraq combat veteran Tammy Duckworth as one of seven new members expected to shake up Congress.

Illinois Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth – One of the first female Black Hawk helicopter pilots to fly combat missions, Duckworth survived a 2004 rocket-propelled grenade attack. She lost both legs and part of her right arm, but managed to safely land her helicopter before attending to her injuries.

Duckworth competed in one of the most bitter races in 2012, against Tea Party incumbent Republican Joe Walsh. Duckworth proved herself as a hefty fundraiser, outspending her opponent by more than $3 million.

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Defense Secretary Gates on Tucson Shooting

The following is a statment released by the Department of Defense from Secretary Robert Gates.

Sec. Robert M. Gates, DoD photo by Monica King, U.S. Army.

“I am saddened to hear of the attack on Congresswoman Giffords and members of her staff earlier today in Tucson, Arizona.   I have had an opportunity to interact with Congresswoman Giffords in her capacity as a member of the House Armed Services Committee, where she served on the Readiness and Air and Land Forces subcommittees.    She is a strong supporter of America‘s national defense, cares deeply about our men and women in uniform, and has pursued her oversight responsibilities with dedication.  Our thoughts are also with her husband, Navy Captain Mark Kelly, an aviator and astronaut of great distinction, as well as the families of the other victims of this attack.  Ms. Giffords represents a new generation of principled and thoughtful political leaders that have come to Washington in recent years.  We will miss her strong character and good judgment in the Congress during these important days ahead, and we are praying for her full recovery.”

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