Air Force cuts go easy on Utah

Published: Tuesday, March 6 2012 8:26 p.m. MST

Aircraft electrician Jeremy John works on an F-16 in 2005.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News archives

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HILL AIR FORCE BASE — The Air Force rolled out the latest detail in its restructuring plan Tuesday, including projections for military and civilian job cuts in Utah.

"The numbers they have put us at around a loss in Utah of 227 jobs," said Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, whose district includes Hill Air Force Base.

Most of those cuts would impact Hill. The cuts are projections at this point as the Air Force works to adapt staffing to fit mandates of the budget presented by the White House.

The fiscal 2013 President's Budget adjusts Air Force military end strength to 501,000, with net personnel reductions of 3,900 among active duty forces, 5,100 from the Air National Guard and 900 Air Force Reserve billets.

"The impact of today's announcement to Hill Air Force Base is a net reduction of 59 active duty, Reserve and Guard military authorizations through fiscal year 2013," said a statement from Hill on Tuesday. "The net reduction of military authorizations comes from a variety  of organizations across the installation and not from any one unit. These changes are in addition to the net reduction of 159 civilian authorizations previously announced."

Bishop stressed that the situation could change.

"People shouldn't be too happy, or too sad right now," he said. "I think a big chunk of that can easily be done with attrition." Or, he said, Congress could add money back to the military budget and further reduce the need for personnel cuts.

Hill is home to both active-duty and reserve Air Force components. The other Air Force element in Utah is the Air National Guard, where the most visible activity is its nine KC-135 aerial refueling tanker aircraft. Air Force detail from the president's budget shows a loss of 14 people.

"The Utah Air National Guard has been subject to past cuts and manpower losses, but our organization has been resilient, and we have been able to evolve throughout the years," said Brig. Gen. David Fountain, assistant adjutant general for air. "Our previous leadership was able to take us through recent changes, like the loss of the 299th Range Control Squadron, and we are fortunate enough to retrain and retain our members allowing them to continue to support our state and federal missions."

Bishop said the next step is for the House and Senate to come up with a budget. "We'll see if it actually keeps any of Obama's cuts on the military intact."

E-mail: sfidel@desnews.com Twitter: SteveFidel

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