Friday, February 10, 2012

Relocating Keesler C-130J planes could have enormous impact

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Right now, it's only a proposal. But a cost reduction plan announced by the Secretary of the Air Force would relocate ten C-130-J aircrafts from the Biloxi base to Dobbins Air Force Base in Georgia.

The transfer of those aircraft is part of an overall plan to trim $480 billion in defense spending. Removing half of that fleet would not only involve airplanes, but most certainly the loss of personnel.

"I don't think it's a good idea. This unit has done outstanding," said retired Gen. Richard Moss Biloxi.

He's the former commander of the 403rd Wing and said moving the aircraft would likely mean significant cuts in people as well.

"Resulting in probably a loss of about 300 positions for the 403rd and probably about 120 Air Reserve technicians. Full time employees. Which means a loss of about a million dollars in salaries to this economy," said Moss.

"First, I think it's important to note that this is a far reaching proposal. And this is just the very beginning of a very long process that will take months, if not years," said Col. Craig LaFave, the current vice commander of the 403rd Wing.

He said it's too early to talk about possible impact of losing the planes. But cutbacks in the Air Force are coming.

"This country has got a national debt to address. That has been stated by the Chief of Staff. That is a national security concern. So, this is part of a very large puzzle to reduce our costs to be a smaller force, but a very potent force," said Col. LaFave.

South Mississippi's congressman told WLOX News he will be asking some tough questions about why the Air Force is even considering moving the C-130s from Keesler.

"Look into their priorities. Why did this come out? Is it strictly a financial decision or a strategic decision?" said Congressman Steven Palazzo. "But we're just going to ask the tough questions and usually if you ask tough questions, if they don't have the right answers, I think it's going to be safe. Because we have to protect Keesler's mission."

The Air Force plan calls for relocating the planes in fiscal year 2014. Current plans call for keeping the Hurricane Hunters at Keesler. The proposed removal of the 10 C-130J airplanes would instead impact the 815th Airlift Squadron, which also flies the C-130-Js.

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