Air Force issues plan to cut 275 workers at Space Command
By TOM ROEDER | The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) | Published: July 14, 2014
A Pentagon budget-cutting plan will eliminate 275 military and civilian jobs at Air Force Space Command in Colorado Springs and cut another 3,225 jobs from Air Force headquarters nationwide.
The local cuts represent less than 10 percent of the workforce at Space Command's Peterson Air Force Base headquarters and will take effect on Oct. 1, the beginning of the fiscal year. It comes nearly a year after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called on the military to cut bureaucracy in the face of Pentagon budget cuts of up to $900 billion over a decade.
It's the latest in a string of Defense cuts to hit Colorado Springs, which in the past year has lost a brigade of troops at Fort Carson and has been threatened with far deeper Army and Air Force austerity measures that could cost the region thousands of jobs.
But leaders seemed to take the Space Command news in stride.
Retired Army Lt. Gen. Ed Anderson, head of the National Homeland Defense Foundation in Colorado Springs, said the cuts weren't a surprise.
"It appears as though Air Force Space Command might have done OK," Anderson said. "It's less than 10 percent, and that could be seen as good news."
U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, a Republican from Colorado Springs, blamed the Obama administration for the newest cuts and called for increased defense spending in a statement issued Monday.
But as far as keeping the Space Command jobs, Lamborn was less the optimistic, saying he would work to get those impacted by the cuts "all possible transition help and assistance."
Colorado's Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Udall took a wait-and-see approach.
"While I appreciate the Air Force's efforts to reduce overhead and provide the best possible value to the taxpayer and our war fighters, I will carefully study the Air Force's proposal and ensure that any cuts at Peterson Air Force Base do not compromise our national security or the missions that keep us ahead of the strategic curve," Udall said in a statement.
The post-war downsizing of the military has been accelerated by the budget deal cut by Congress in 2011. After hitting a wartime high of nearly $700 billion in 2011, the Defense Department expects to spend less than $500 billion in 2015.
Peterson Air Force Base has about 9,000 airmen and Defense Department civilians on the payroll serving at Space Command and other units on the base.
A Pentagon spokeswoman said detailed information on the proposed Space Command cuts wasn't available Monday.
Space Command has braced for cuts since last fall, when budget forecasters predicted a need to trim as much as $1 billion from its annual $12 billion budget.
The command oversees the nation's network of military satellites, including the Global Positioning System, along with the Air Force's computer warfare program.
"I will work to ensure the world's best Air Force is the most capable at the lowest possible cost to the taxpayer," Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said in a Monday statement. "Everyone knows our economy is still not where it should be. We have a responsibility to ensure that every dollar adds value to the taxpayers and our national defense."
It's the second cut announced for Peterson this year, with an earlier Air Force budget plan cutting a squadron of C-130 transport planes and 200 airmen from the base's 302nd Airlift Wing.
Colorado's Congressional delegation has thrown roadblocks ahead of that cut, and it has been erased from House and Senate military spending proposals.
A similar battle could be in store for the headquarters cut.
Overall, Air Force plans call for cutting nearly 3,500 airmen and civilians at headquarters operations nationwide. The biggest cut would hit the Pentagon, where 734 job cuts are planned.
The Air Force said headquarters cuts will save $1.6 billion over five years.
While outright layoffs are possible, the Air Force is offering early retirement and voluntary severance packages.
The Air Force announcement comes about two weeks after the Army issued a doomsday plan for massive cuts nationwide. In an unlikely worst-case scenario, the cut would cut two out of every three soldiers at Fort Carson.
The Army is studying the cuts and should reach a decision this fall.