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Military cuts could be costly for Oklahomans who work for Air Force

Looming military spending cuts could mean 14,000 civilians at three Air Force bases in Oklahoma could be furloughed for up to 22 days between April and September. The payroll hit in Oklahoma would be second only to Texas.
by Chris Casteel Published: February 18, 2013

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, of Tulsa, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, has asked all of the military services to provide data on how the cuts would affect bases in each state, though only the Air Force has responded.

“There is a growing concern that the president will not seriously negotiate with Congress on a compromise to sequestration until after it takes place on March 1, 2013, and each member of Congress hears of the pain affecting their constituents,” Inhofe said.

“But the real pain will be felt by the men and women serving our country who will see resources they need to defend the nation arbitrarily cut.”

U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, whose district includes Tinker and Fort Sill, the U.S. Army artillery training post in Lawton, said Friday, “There's no question the sequester cuts will have a major impact on Oklahoma's civilian workforce and on our defense capability in general.”

Cole said House Republicans passed legislation twice in 2012 to redistribute the cuts to protect the military. He said President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats “have yet to propose serious solutions of their own.”

“My Oklahoma colleagues and I are taking this very seriously, but we can't prevent these cuts without some cooperation from the White House,” Cole said.

Approach criticized

The president, however, has criticized the approach Republicans favor to replace the sequester.

“Now, some in Congress have proposed preventing only the defense cuts by making even bigger cuts to things like education and job training, Medicare and Social Security benefits. That idea is even worse,” Obama said in his State of the Union speech.

At a hearing last week, military leaders warned that private contractors would also be harmed by the work stoppages forced by the budget cuts.

Jennifer Hogan, a spokeswoman for Boeing in Oklahoma City, said the company has about 1,300 defense-related workers in the state, a number expected to expand to 1,700 by the end of the year.

She said, “It is too early to speculate on what deep defense budget cuts might mean for individual programs or the facilities that support them. That said, Boeing has been anticipating declining U.S. defense budgets for several years, and we have been making the changes necessary to compete and grow in this environment.”

Randy Belote III, a spokesman for Northrop Grumman, also declined to speculate on specific impacts at the company.

“We are urging Congress to work to avoid sequestration's negative economic impacts, particularly in terms of government and private employment, the industrial base and its suppliers, as well as the impacts to our national security,” Belote said.

by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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