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Palazzo Seeks to Kill Third Air Force Proposal to Move Planes from Keesler

Says leadership has failed to answer questions regarding costs, justification

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Washington, March 14, 2014 | comments

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Steven Palazzo, (MS-4), today pressed Air Force leadership at a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the FY15 budget proposal. Palazzo, who chaired the second half of the hearing, demanded justification for proposed rebasing of Keesler aircraft and vowed to “fight to kill this proposal, just as I’ve fought to kill the previous two.”  The FY15 budget proposal calls for the movement of ten C-130J aircraft from Keesler Air Force Base to Little Rock Air Force Base.  Palazzo has argued that the proposed moves provide no fiscal or operational benefits as compared with continuing to base these aircraft in South Mississippi.

 

Congressman Palazzo’s remarks as prepared:

 

Madam Secretary and General Welsh thank you for coming in today and for your testimony. 

 

I want to focus on the third Air Force proposal to remove missions from Keesler Air Force Base within the past two years. I’ll tell you up front: I’m going to fight to kill this one just as I fought to kill the previous two.

 

The previous proposals suggested moving the 815th and the 345th Associate unit; first to Dobbins Reserve Base in Georgia and then Pope Army Air Field in North Carolina.  First, we explained that Dobbins didn’t have the infrastructure for the units and the air force agreed with us, then to Pope, (which is now being abandoned as well in favor of closing their units.)  Now Keesler AFB is being told that the C-130’s are going to be sent to Little Rock. 

 

That makes three different bases for these airmen in three years. It seems like the Air Force is hell-bent on moving these planes out of South Mississippi.

 

General Selva claimed just the other day they could save 600 billets and $100 million dollars over the FYDP in reference to a question from Senator Wicker about moving these planes and claimed that the move itself was budget neutral.

 

Can you tell me who is responsible for those dollar numbers?  Is that an Air Force Reserve number or an Active Air Force Number?

 

I have a tremendous amount of respect for General Selva, but I think that whoever did the math on that one is just plain wrong. 

 

I’m a CPA and I did the math, we are talking about deactivating the 815th and Deactivating the 345th which means about 185 reservists 145 active duty and 35 civilians.  365 total and that is assuming no one stays in the air force.  I could line out the so-called savings you will see in pay and benefits but in the interest of time I will save that for a follow-up meeting.

 

In addition, as I am sure you are aware, since Hurricane Katrina, Keesler has been improved and expanded to the tune of $58 million dollars to accommodate the C-130J.  Add that money, which would essentially be wasted, to the $3 to 5 million dollars in PCS (permanent change of station) costs for the active duty force.

 

I am failing to see where we get anywhere near the $100 million dollars in savings by moving these planes to a base that is already stretched too thin.

 

In fact it is interesting to note that often times the simulators and training at Little Rock are so full that the Air Force actually sends some of our Airmen and our international partners to Keesler AFB to do their training.

 

The 913th, the unit that was deactivated in 2007 and will be re-activated to accept these planes, was a C-130H unit.  My understanding is even if we pull those pilots back it is going to take an additional 5-6 months and  plenty of training costs to even qualify them to fly the J model aircraft.

 

I would like to ask unanimous consent that the following list of awards given to Keesler Air Force Base as well as the airmen of several of the units that are currently proposed to be decommissioned be inserted in the record.

 

Madam Secretary,  General Welsh,  I am sorry but I am not going to let the Air Force get away with moving families disrupting communities and moving our airmen around whenever they feel like it without justification.  I have been closely watching these proposals for over two years.  When Keesler won the commander and chief’s award for the greatest base in the Nation I thought “no way would our commanders try and take these planes from the top performing base,” but you can imagine my disappointment when I saw this most recent news.

 

So General Welsh and Secretary James, General Selva said this move would be cost neutral and said he would check into “the specifics of what might be required at Little Rock that wouldn’t be required at pope or any other location where we would base that unit.”

 

I am going to be a little more specific, I don’t care how much it would have cost to move the planes to Pope, and I don’t care how much it was going to cost to move them to Dobbins.  I want to know exactly how much that it is going to cost in actual dollars (fuel, milcon, other relocation costs) and manpower downtime, for these planes to move to Little Rock Air Force Base from Keesler. 

 

I have been asking for cost justifications for these movements for over two years now -  I am yet to see an answer that shows me any cost savings.

 

We are obviously running short on time so I request that you provide the full cost justification to my office in writing as soon as possible. I will be anxiously awaiting your answer.

 

Madam Secretary and General Welsh, thank you for being here and I look forward to hearing from you, and I would like to personally extend an invitation  you both to come to Keesler to see these units firsthand and the great work they are doing.

 

I yield back.

 

 

Click here or on the picture above for video from today’s hearing.

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