Beebe, AR Guard back alternative to defense cuts

LITTLE ROCK, AR – Major cutbacks proposed for Arkansas Air Guard under the latest Department of Defense budget. The biggest cuts coming to the 188th fighter wing in Fort Smith. The same proposal could actually benefit Little Rock Air Force Base.

The defense department plans to cut 200 jobs from the Arkansas Air Guard, nearly all of them coming out of Fort Smith.

Major General William Wofford with the Arkansas National Guard, briefed governor Mike Beebe at the capitol about the plan on Thursday.

“Our concern is we’re not sure that what’s proposed right now is what’s best for America or what’s best for the Air Force,” Wofford says.

The A-10 “warthog” aircraft would go too, replaced by unmanned drones that pilots would navigate via satellite from Fort Smith.

It’s a different tune at LRAFB. Col. Brian Robinson says it stands to see a six percent increase in staffing, approximately 400 servicemen.

“We’re going to grow frankly if the proposal is approved by Congress,” Robinson says. “From a Little Rock Air Force perspective, by and large it’s positive.”

But the proposal isn’t the only DOD budget plan.

There’s an alternative, proposed from all 50 governors, that Beebe says would lessen the cuts to locations like Fort Smith.

“Everybody knows there has to be cuts, everyone has to share in those cuts,” Beebe says. “I believe if they look at it objectively the taxpayers will save even more money but the actual defense will be even more efficient if they go with the governor’s plan.”

A portion of the Arkansas Air Guard presence at LRAFB would also transfer to Fort Smith under the proposal.

Wofford says switching to drones would affect jobs in Arkansas too, because maintenance crews won’t have planes to work on.

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