By 1st Lt. Mallory Glass
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Little Rock Air Force Base officials are currently assessing how the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, sequestration actions and the findings of the Intra-Theater Airlift Working Group, released Wednesday, will influence operations, readiness and personnel.
“The 19th Airlift Wing, along with our partners in the 314th Airlift Wing, 189th Airlift Wing and 22nd Air Force Detachment 1, are engaged with higher headquarters to ensure we are managing and articulating the capacity risks we are taking in a fiscally constrained environment,” said Col. Brian Robinson, 19th Airlift Wing commander. “Furthermore, we want to make sure that we are effectively and efficiently organizing, training and equipping our Airmen to ensure that they can respond to future global contingency operations.
Near term cost-saving actions
Due to sequestration the base has taken the following actions: curtailing non-readiness or mission essential flying and travel, curtailing or stopping minor purchases such as furniture and information technology refresh, deferring non-emergency facility sustainment, restoration and modernization, implementing a civilian hiring freeze for all non-mission critical positions and releasing non-mission critical temporary and term employees (at the end of their term for term employees). Little Rock AFB will have to cut $2 million out of its base operations budget and in addition the base has been tasked to cut $1.8 million in fiscal year 2013 spending. These cuts include decreases in aircrew temporary duty travel, which corresponds with the 19th Airlift Wing’s 35 percent cut in flying hours, and baseline operations and maintenance funds. The base has been slowing down spending since January to ensure this goal is met.
Sequestration has also prompted unpaid civilian furloughs across the federal government. The 650-plus civilian workforce here is scheduled to be furloughed two days per pay period starting in late April. A furlough is placing an employee in a temporary non-duty, non-pay status due to lack of budget funds. Both the Air Force and leadership here are deeply concerned about the negative effects furloughs will have on the morale and effectiveness of the valued civilian workforce. Furthermore, furloughs will increase workloads for the active duty service members and decrease services capabilities.
Defense Department Strategic Guidance required all the military services to determine how to most effectively and efficiently posture forces for the future security environment. Both sequestration and the Budget Control Act means doing so with a drastically reduced budget.
Little Rock aircraft movement
In response to those challenges, the Air Force, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard leadership collaborated to develop one Total Force Proposal. In this proposal, authorized in the fiscal year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, Air Force leadership of the 19th AW’s legacy C-130H squadrons was proposed for reduction in fiscal year 2014. At the same time, the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard are scheduled to gain C-130 units, resulting in only a net reduction of 20 C-130s at Little Rock in fiscal year 2014.
Total force mindset
“We are looking at this from a total force perspective” said Robinson. “The Team Little Rock tactical airlift mission is integrated and innovative. We approach installation excellence through a synergistic concept of civilian and active duty, guard and reserve, community and base; this enables Little Rock AFB to remain the nation’s center for ‘cradle-to-grave’ C-130 warfighting capability.”
However, it is also worth noting that the Air Force Total Force Proposal, which was incorporated in the fiscal year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, included a re-allocation of future deliveries of C-130Js to the 19th and 314th AWs in the fiscal year 2018 timeframe.
Retaining additional airlift capacity
The Air Force announced Wednesday it will retain additional airlift aircraft through fiscal year 2014 in response to a congressional mandate to retain an inventory of 358 intra-theater airlift aircraft. Five of the 25 aircraft retained in fiscal year 2014 will be assigned to Little Rock AFB total force units. The aircraft will facilitate the Air National Guard ANG unit’s transition to meet the required aircrew production goals and provide further resources to 22nd AF Det. 1.
“The Arkansas Air National Guard has been working hand-in-hand with the active duty at Little Rock AFB since 1986,” said Col. Harold S. Eggensperger, 189th Airlift Wing commander. “We look forward to continuing this strong partnership with the active duty wings here and expanding that partnership with the Det. 1 22nd Air Force Reserves.”
In addition to the aircraft allocated to units affected by the President’s 2013 Budget, the Air Force also added aircraft to enhance mission effectiveness. The following aircraft will also beback-up aircraft:
Two aircraft to 22nd Air Force Detachment 1, Little Rock AFB
One aircraft to 19th Airlift Wing, Little Rock AFB
Two aircraft to 189th Airlift Wing, Little Rock AFB
Long term impacts
As a result, the slated net effect of the National Defense Authorization Act at Little Rock over the long term (from fiscal years 2013 to 2018) is a reduction of 10 C-130 aircraft and 330 personnel billets.
“Specific fleet management decisions on individual aircraft movements remain to be determined; however, we will remain focused on readiness and supporting all the Airmen, their families and civilians of Team Little Rock,” said Robinson.
“The onset of sequestration has brought significant uncertainty into the lives of our military personnel, families, retirees, civilian workforce, contractors, and defense industry partners, and this uncertainty is expected to continue given the nation’s ongoing budget challenges. We will have to push through and deal with the uncertainty.”