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Budget snafu hits 17 bases on plane transfers

Oct. 12, 2012 - 02:25PM   |   Last Updated: Oct. 12, 2012 - 02:25PM  |  
The freeze is keeping older aircraft such as C-5A Galaxys and C-130E Hercules, seen above, in the air at Air National Guard bases.
The freeze is keeping older aircraft such as C-5A Galaxys and C-130E Hercules, seen above, in the air at Air National Guard bases. (Michelle Gigante / Air Force)
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At least 17 bases are waiting to welcome or retire aircraft as the Air Force is forced to freeze its transfer and retirement of planes under a six-month continuing resolution imposed by Congress.

The freeze is keeping older aircraft such as C-5A Galaxys and C-130E Hercules in service at Air National Guard bases, along with blocking the movement of F-22 and F-16 squadrons at active bases. The moves are a part of changes approved in previous years, but have been frozen under congressional action.

The continuing resolution, which took effect Oct.1, blocks the Air Force from retiring, divesting, realigning or transferring aircraft, along with disestablishing or converting any associated unit. The language has some unintended consequences for supporters of the National Guard, forcing many bases to keep planes that lawmakers and military officials had been planning on retiring.

That includes keeping C-5s at the Tennessee Air National Guard's 164th Airlift Wing, C-130Es at the Puerto Rico National Guard's 156th Airlift Wing, and other C-130s stationed at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas; Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.; Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.; Hurlburt Field, Fla.; Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., and Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., according to the Obama administration's fiscal 2013 force structure proposal.

Berry Field Air Guard Station, Tenn., was scheduled to transfer WC-130s to Puerto Rico and bed down MQ-1 and MQ-9 squadrons.

Bradley Air Guard Station, Conn.; Kellogg Air Guard Station, Mich., and Fargo Air Guard Station, N.D., were also set to retire C-21 passenger aircraft.

Also, a transfer of F-16s from Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., to Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., is on hold. The F-16s were to replace a squadron of F-22s that are set to transfer to Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.

Impact on airmen

The Air Force is working on an official list of units and aircraft affected by the freeze, and it is unclear how many airmen are stuck for now. Bases had received guidance that the movements are blocked, but the resolution does not prohibit routine fleet management or ongoing missions.

Congress was warned in July when Lt. Gen. Christopher Miller, deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and programs, told a House committee that the inability to move the aircraft would affect operations. A freeze on movements agreed to in previous years would block about 150 aircraft transfers and 98 aircraft retirements already scheduled.

By retaining the 98 aircraft, the Air Force would need an additional $255 million in fiscal 2013 to operate the aircraft, Miller said.

"These delays impact our military capability and readiness, while introducing uncertainty in future missions and training schedules for affected units and the associated airmen and families," Miller said in his testimony.

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