Concern grows over possible defense cuts | News
MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA)- There is growing concern that automatic spending cuts that could go into effect next January would cripple the defense industry. Meanwhile, the Air Force has already announced a proposal to retire the fleet of C-130s used by the 908th Air Wing at Maxwell Air Force Base.
But advocates say they're still cautiously optimistic an agreement to keep the planes and avert cuts can be reached.
A report published by the 908th found that retiring the fleet could put at least 700 jobs at Maxwell at risk .
"It would not only just affect Maxwell, but outside of Maxwell, and the Tri-County," said Pete Preskitt, President of the United Steelworkers Local 9504. "That's going to be a big economic impact were the 908th to move away."
That prompted Preskitt to launch a petition drive to keep the fleet at Maxwell. He even traveled to Washington to lobby federal lawmakers.
"We started asking questions about what they were going to replace those planes with at Maxwell," Preskitt said.
Preskitt is cautiously optimistic the lobbying has paid off and defense officials may give the plan another look. That is if more budget cuts don't loom.
If lawmakers can't reach a budget deal by the first of the year, automatic cuts known as "sequestration" will take effect. The cuts could force the defense department to lose $55 billion in January, and nearly $500 billion over a decade.
"Well I sure as hell hope that sequestration doesn't happen," said Leon Panetta, Secretary of Defense. "It would be, as I've said, time and time again a disaster in terms of the Defense Department, as far as our budget is concerned as far as our ability to respond to the threats that are out there."
The cuts would likely also affect people such as Preskitt, who work for a contractor. He's hopeful an agreement will be reached.
"Anytime you deal with the Government, you know it changes from day to day. Our hopes and prayers are that they will bring more planes there and leave our planes in place."
Rep. Martha Roby along with other Republican lawmakers and defense contractors have asked for more transparency about the sequestration process, so that enlisted and civilian employees have a better idea of what could happen.
The looming cuts could also have an impact on the economy. A study found more than a million defense related jobs could be lost.
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