A study prepared for Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, makes it clear: Pending cuts to the Department of Defense will take a heavy toll on Oklahoma's military installations.
The cuts, called sequestration, are tied to the bitter 2011 fight over the debt ceiling. Part of that agreement to raise the nation's debt limit included $1 trillion in budget reductions over a 10-year period, with $500 billion being lopped off the Defense Department books.
The hope was that President Barack Obama and congressional leaders would later come to an agreement that would prevent defense from being hit so hard. It hasn't happened. The automatic cuts were supposed to begin Jan. 1 but that date got pushed back by two months during the recent fiscal cliff negotiations.
So March is when the ax is due to fall. If that happens, the report by Senate Armed Services Committee staff says, then the 14,000 civilian employees at Tinker Air Force Base would be furloughed and less repair work could be accomplished on aircraft that's vital to the Air Force fleet.
At Fort Sill, as many as 6,000 civilians could be furloughed, training would be reduced and the graduation rate of new soldiers would be slowed. A combined 2,300 civilians would be furloughed at the Air Force bases in Altus and Enid, with flight training curtailed. Furloughs and work slowdowns also would occur at the Army Ammunition Depot in McAlester.
A study last year by an aerospace group said sequestration could cost Oklahoma 16,000 jobs, half of those defense-related. The analysis prepared for Inhofe helps underscore just how damaging those cuts could be not just to the workforce but to the military.
Inhofe says the threat from the cuts is very real. He has set out to muster Republican support for his fight to prevent sequestration from occurring. Oklahomans need to hope he succeeds.