Children swim in a 50-meter base swimming pool on Okinawa in August. Officials at Kadena Air Base say they may have to raise pool fees this year because of an Air Force-wide budget crunch.

Children swim in a 50-meter base swimming pool on Okinawa in August. Officials at Kadena Air Base say they may have to raise pool fees this year because of an Air Force-wide budget crunch. (Stars and Stripes)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Wing commanders at Pacific Air Forces bases have been told to curtail spending in nonmission-essential areas to help avoid an Air Force budget crisis in the face of mounting war-on-terrorism debt.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper has directed all major commands to cut back on low-priority spending such as facilities, business operations, travel, administrative functions, nondeployment-related training and new contracts.

“These areas should be slowed significantly through the end of the fiscal year,” Jumper told commanders in a March 1 message. The fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

The service projects it will fall $3 billion short in maintenance and operations and have a $733 million shortfall in military personnel funding by the end of the fiscal year, Jumper said.

Some relief likely will be provided by the Bush administration’s $75 billion 2005 supplemental military funding bill, which awaits approval in Congress.

In the meantime, paying for the war on terrorism and the cost to rotate troops for those operations are to be the top two spending priorities, Jumper has ordered.

While combat training and readiness are to remain high priorities, Jumper has directed slowing those activities if necessary to pay for the top two priorities.

PACAF Vice Commander Lt. Gen. Gene Renuart Jr. already has requested that PACAF headquarters staff and wing commanders “look at their spending and see what areas they could reduce spending in,” according to Capt. David Faggard, a PACAF spokesman.

But Faggard, in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes, said PACAF was “not giving exact details on what may or may not get funded because we’re still determining that. Once commanders in the field determine the best course of action, they’ll work with PACAF and Air Force to determine the best way ahead.”

Most public affairs officials at PACAF bases in Japan, Guam and South Korea have referred Stripes’ queries about belt-tightening measures back to PACAF or provided written statements similar to PACAF’s. Requests to interview wing commanders and base finance experts were denied.

“It is too early to discuss specifics, because we’re still working with Pacific Air Forces to determine specific impacts of the ‘slow down,’” said Col. Thurlow Crummett, 36th Mission Support Group commander, Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, in a written statement.

Likewise, Maj. Eric Hilliard, a 5th Air Force spokesman, said the “bottom line is that they are asking commanders to ‘slow down.’”

That slowdown already is being felt at Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, where spending not deemed “mission essential” at dining services, mortuary affairs, fitness services and the child development centers will not be approved, said Bonnie Runge, 18th Services Squadron marketing director.

“Yes there is an impact for us in services … APF (appropriated fund dollars) is where the impact is hitting. [Nonappropriated funding] is continuing to generate revenue.”

Servicemembers and dependents who use Kadena’s pool facilities may be facing a surcharge to help pay for lifeguards this summer, Runge said. The 18th Services Squadron is still waiting to hear whether it will be able to pay lifeguards with appropriated fund dollars. If not, the surcharge may apply, she said.

Also, orders to purchase new fitness equipment have been put on hold, Runge said.

“Our commander has directed us all … not to do any spending that we absolutely don’t have to do,” Runge said. Temporary duty travel for conferences and other events also has been canceled, she said.

At Misawa Air Base, Japan, base officials are looking at cutting back TDY expenditures, the number of rental cars used on TDYs and the number of people attending out-of-town meetings, said Capt. John Haynes, 35th Fighter Wing spokesman.

Kunsan and Osan air bases in South Korea referred Stripes to PACAF public affairs officials in Hawaii.

Other Air Force commands already have begun prioritizing funds: Air Mobility Command, for example, is limiting facility projects to emergency work only and has slowed planned technology upgrades, according to an Air Force news release. AMC mobility flying operations, required depot maintenance and war-related activities won’t be affected, officials said.

In PACAF, wing commanders were forced to tighten their belts last year due to costs to support operations in Iraq and elsewhere. At Yokota Air Base near Tokyo, for example, renovation of a dormitory laundry facility was delayed, while at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, the 18th Wing considered parking its fleet of government vehicles and put off replacing aging heating, ventilation and air-conditioning units.

Erik Slavin, T.D. Flack, Franklin Fisher and Scott Schonauer contributed to this story.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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