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Keesler Faces Cuts As Air Force Budgets Shrink

By Evelina Burnett | Published 06 Feb 2014 08:22pm | comments

Hundreds of Airmen at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi are facing cuts this year as the U.S. Air Force responds to shrinking budgets.

MPB’s Evelina Burnett reports on what the potential eight-percent downsizing will mean to the base – and to businesses nearby.

Brigadier General Patrick Higby, the commanding officer at Keesler, says up to 1,000 airmen at the base are eligible for voluntary separations, and another 862 that might face involuntary separations. He says there are about 12,000 Airmen at Keesler.

"Across the Air Force, the maximum potential is a reduction of 25,000 Airmen, which represents just under 8 percent of the force," he says. "So if Keesler took its fair share, that would be about 8 percent of the force structure here."

Higby says these numbers are estimates of the maximum number of active duty airmen who could be affected by the end of this year. But he says he hopes many will choose to move into the Air National Guard or Air Force Reserve.

"Ultimately, when you look at how the Air Force goes to war, it's a total force," he says. "So when I think about what I've invested in a given Airman - in terms of the training, the experience that they've had - I want to try to preserve that and have that available, in case we do face a future threat that would overwhelm our capability that we would have remaining at the end of this year."

Keesler is one of the largest employers on the Gulf Coast, so any shrinkage on the base will have a ripple effect on the many nearby businesses.

Robin Lamey is a salesperson at Luckies Furniture, which is located outside of Keesler Gate 7.

"Here on the Coast, our military bases have a huge impact on all our businesses, and we appreciate them and their service," she says. "But any kind of cut out there will affect every business, including ours, or restaurants, just everyone." 

A report last week by the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force estimated $2 billion dollars a year could be saved by increasing the reliance on reserve and guard members, with no reduction in the Air Force's overall military strength.
 

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