SALT LAKE CITY -- Sen. Orrin Hatch sounded a warning note about the impact sequestration will have on Hill Air Force Base during appearances Wednesday in the State Legislature.
The six-term lawmaker said he believes in the need to limit debt, but he worried sequestration will be too difficult on its impact on the military. He predicted the automatic cuts will take impact, barring a last second intervention.
"Sequestration will be a difficult thing for us," Hatch said.
Hatch said more than half of the spending reductions generated by the move would affect military spending. The cuts will impact civilians, but not military personnel.
He said the Department of Defense's analysis of the automatic cuts indicate HAFB could be offering furloughs to more than 11,000 people for 22 days, starting as early as April 1. He estimates the total cutback will be a loss in revenue of $86.3 million, or about $7,700 per employee. He worried the cuts could also threaten weapons system sustainment.
"It can be very harsh, if it is kept up very long," Hatch warned.
Hatch admits Republicans support sequestration because they see no other efforts by control spending.
"We have $16.6 trillion in national debt. We can't keep doing that and maintain being the best country in the world. Republicans are at wits end and sequestration seems the only route they can take," Hatch said.
Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, pressed the veteran GOP lawmaker about whether he sees any more Base Realignment Commission (BRAC) hearings in the near future.
Hatch did not answer the question directly, but suggested HAFB is one of three key bases for the U.S.
Besides addressing HAFB, Hatch also vocalized his support for Israel and moderate Arab countries in a question and answer period in the House. He also addressed the possibility of immigration reform in Washington, D.C., saying any kind of amnesty will only be an invitation to make the problem of illegal immigrants coming to the U.S. worse.
Base spokesman Rich Essary said while it's still unclear exactly how things will shake out at Hill, the Air Force Materiel Command, which Hill falls under, will be forced to implement major spending reductions that will have a substantial impact on its mission if sequestration takes effect March 1.
Essary said sequestration impacts could include:
- Reduced weapon systems sustainment, resulting from funding cuts for the maintenance of aircraft and other systems.
- Unpaid furlough of civilian employees of up to 22 days between April and September. This will impact the AFMC mission across the spectrum of life-cycle acquisition, management and sustainment of Air Force weapon systems. The Department of Defense has said that furloughs are a last resort, and if implemented, DoD civilians would be given 30 days' notice. Military members are exempt from furlough by law.
- Reduced testing of Air Force weapons systems. Test schedules may be impacted by factors such as civilian furloughs, aircraft maintenance reductions and reduced base operating support.
- Deferment of funds to be invested in long-term research and development projects. Essary said Hill has already taken some early cost-saving measures such as implementing a temporary civilian hiring freeze and canceling all nonmission-critical travel.