A “Force Structure Announcement” released Wednesday (Mar. 7) by the U.S. Air Force shows Arkansas losing 223 positions, or 2.75%, under the previously announced budget cuts and force changes.
Overall, the Air Force proposed reductions of 3,900 active-duty, 5,100 Air National Guard and 900 Air Force Reserve positions.
The 188th Fighter Wing in Fort Smith would see its authorized personnel numbers fall from 972 in fiscal year 2011 to 802 in fiscal year 2013. The Little Rock Air Force Base would see its personnel numbers rise from 6,820 in fiscal year 2011 to 7,213 in fiscal year 2013.
Personnel losses are much less with the 188th than previously estimated.
The Air Force announced in early February its plans to remove the 20 A-10 “Warthog” planes from the 188th as part of an overall plan to cut 227 aircraft from the fleet, or about 4%. Of the 227, about 100 are A-10 aircraft. The cuts are part of an overall effort by the Department of Defense to make deep cuts in the defense budget during the next 10 years.
The 188th mission is scheduled to convert to “flying” the unmanned Predator drone. The drones will not be located in Fort Smith, meaning the hundreds of technicians and other support personnel — fire crews, security, pilots — would not be needed. The A-10 mission has about 1,000 attached to the 188th, with about 350 of those full-time. An initial estimate provided by the 188th Steering Committee of the 188th/Fort Chaffee Community Council indicated base personnel with the Predator mission could fall to 300, with just 55 full-time.
The six members of Arkansas’ Congressional Delegation sent on Feb. 28 a letter to U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta asking for “additional information” about the decision to remove the A-10 fighter mission from the Fort Smith-based 188th Fighter Wing. They requested an answer no later than Mar. 12.
In neighboring Oklahoma, the cuts were deeper. A communications unit at Tinker Air Force Base — near Oklahoma City — that employs about 600 people will be deactivated. The unit provides communications, computer systems, navigational aids and air traffic control for the Air Force Space Command.
You can access the Air Force report released Wednesday at The City Wire here.
Michael Tilley with our content partner, The City Wire, is the author of this report. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.