Air Force to cut nearly 300 jobs at Scott AFB

News-DemocratJuly 14, 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

— The Air Force announced Monday afternoon it plans to cut 292 jobs at Scott Air Force Base as part of a sweeping management review to cut nearly 3,500 jobs and save $1.6 billion over the next five years.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said the cuts in support and headquarters staffing levels stemmed from the Air Force's responsibility to provide the service at the lowest possible cost to the taxpayers.

"Everyone knows our economy is still not where it should be," James announced in a statement on the Air Force website. "We have a responsibility to ensure that every dollar adds value to the taxpayers and our national defense."

Air Force bases nationwide and overseas will be affected by the proposed cuts. The two places taking the biggest hits were Joint Base Langley-Eustis, outside Washington, D.C., which was slated to lose 742 jobs, and Air Force Headquarters, in Washington, which would lose 734 jobs.

The Air Force statement did not specify which agencies and commands at Scott would be affected by the cuts. The job reductions will be a combination of civilian and military jobs.

Karen Pettit, a spokeswoman for the 375th Air Mobility Wing, which oversees the base, declined to comment until she received more information about the upcoming cuts.

Mark Voorhis, a spokesman for the Air Mobility Command, based at Scott, it still remains unclear where the cuts will hit AMC.

"No specific positions yet," Voorhis said. "That's all still being worked out."

The Air Force also announced it plans to cut overhead costs and centralize its installation support management with the creation of the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center.

Ellen Krohne, the executive director of Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois, which is spearheading the campaign to protect Scott from future base closures, said she was not surprised by Monday's announcement of the job cuts.

For months the council task force set up to defend Scott has been working with Air Force and community leaders "to make sure that we are met with community support, and make sure that we have a coordinated strategy for helping people that are going to be exiting to find jobs and stay in the region," Krohne said.

The leadership council plans to help people who leave the Air Force because of the restructuring find new jobs through networking sessions, job fairs and other means, she said.

"So we've been working on this," Krohne said. "So it's not a surprise."

Two weeks ago, the Air Force announced that 320 new jobs would be coming to Scott later this summer in the form of two cyber security squadrons charged with the job of protecting Air Force data networks.

Scott is also one of the six finalists for a new home for the National Geo-Spatial Intelligence Agency, which has outgrown its facilities near St. Louis. That agency, which provides maps and other material to the president of the United States, as well as military combat units, supports 3,000 jobs, many of which are contractors and support jobs.

Monday's announcement stated the latest cuts are the result of a comprehensive effort to reduce overhead costs, increase efficiencies, eliminate redundant activities and improve business practices.

In addition, the Air Force plans to save money by reductions in contract spending, operating budgets and travel expenditures, according to a statement.

To soften the impact on civilian workers, the Air Force will begin voluntary early retirement programs and separation programs before launching involuntary separations.

The bulk of the job cuts are set to take place during the first year of the cost-cutting program, according to James.

"We are aggressively pursuing reductions within the first year, rather than spread them out over five years as allowed by (the Department of Defense)," James said.

"It's better for airmen because it provides them with predictability and allows us to restabilize our workforce sooner. It also allows us to harvest the savings earlier so that we can plow it back into readiness and some of our key modernization programs."

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

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