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Mississippians Keep Close Eye on Proposed Defense Cuts

By Evelina Burnett | Published 25 Feb 2014 09:30pm | comments

Mississippians are reacting to the Pentagon’s latest proposal for defense spending cuts. As MPB’s Evelina Burnett reports, the military is a big piece of the Gulf Coast’s economy, so any cuts could have a ripple effect throughout the community.

Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi had more than 12,000 military, students and civilians on their payroll in 2012 – that’s over $250-million-dollars in salaries pumping through the local economy.

The Naval Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport had a payroll of 15,000 last year.

Richard Moss, former commander of the 403rd reserve wing at Keesler and now a board member of the Biloxi Bay Chamber, says, if you cut even a small percentage of these jobs, the coast's economy will feel it.

"They won't be buying homes in the area, they won't be buying furniture, they won't be buying all the staples that they need," he says. "It will have a big economic impact on the community."

The Pentagon’s proposed budget is expected to include cuts to the Army national guard and reserves, which could impact some of Mississippi's more than 12,000 Guard members.

Still, it’s too early to tell exactly how the proposed cuts will shake out.Some in Congress, including Mississippi’s Fourth District Congressman Steven Palazzo, have already come out against them.

"It's just something that myself and others in Congress have been fighting for over three years because it's just plain wrong," he says. "For one, we need a strong national defense, because a strong national defense equals a strong economy, and a strong economy equals a strong national security."

The Pentagon says it will also propose another round of base closings in 2017. Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker said in a statement he would oppose this, arguing the 2005 realignment didn’t result in any tangible savings.

Related story:

Keesler Faces Cuts As Air Force Budgets Shrink

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