Air Force chief of staff to visit Scott, assess local support for base

News-DemocratMarch 13, 2014 

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A sign welcomes visitors through the Belleville Gate entrance at Scott Air Force Base.

SSGT CHAD R. GANN, USAF — Chad R. Gann, USAF

U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh is scheduled to visit Scott Air Force Base on March 21 to meet base and community leaders to assess local support for the base.

Welsh is visiting at the behest of U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Springfield, the chairman of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, which oversees discretionary military spending.

"Scott Air Force Base is a critical component of our national security and a linchpin of the regional economy. It also enjoys an unusually strong partnership with the surrounding community," Durbin said. "The base also has plenty of room to grow, and I've made it a priority on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee to support a strong future for Scott."

The Air Force, like the other armed services, is under intense pressure from Congress to cut costs. Over the next 10 years the U.S. military faces nearly $500 billion in spending reductions.

Leaders of towns near Scott have been raising money and marshaling legislative clout to prepare for the next round of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, or BRAC. That's a non-partisan body that determines which military bases nationwide to close, leave alone or consolidate.

Under the current defense bill, another round of BRAC base closings can't begin for at least another two years. But the Leadership Council Southwest Illinois, in Edwardsville, is spearheading a drive to prevent cuts to Scott's workforce in the meantime.

Contact reporter Mike Fitzgerald at mfitzgerald@bnd.com or 239-2533.

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