Alaska Editorial: Needless Grounding

This editorial first appeared in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:

How ironic that the U.S. Air Force cannot fly its aircraft.

The Air Force has grounded F-16s at Eielson Air Force Base and several other installations across the country. So the world’s mightiest military cannot keep its pilots in top form. They will go without real flight experience until at least Oct. 1, the beginning of the next fiscal year.

Even more ironic, it appears this circumstance has been created by a budgeting rule rather than a shortage of money.

In general terms, the lack of a budget deal in Congress prompted the grounding. The resulting sequestration cut the amount of money available to the Air Force.

In such circumstances, one might expect the Air Force to move some money from lower priority functions so its pilots could continue to practice.

However, because of the way the Air Force’s budget is written, it cannot do that. The sequestration action reduced the Air Combat Command’s operations and maintenance account, and the Air Force apparently is not allowed to move money into that account from elsewhere in its budget.

So Air Force pilots will fly 45,000 fewer hours between now and Oct. 1.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said the Air Force has plenty of money in its procurement and research accounts to cover the shortfall in the operations account.

“The Air Force accounts are set up just a little bit differently, and they are caught in a situation where they don’t have as much flexibility to maneuver the dollars to allow for the level of training that needs to go on,” she told the News-Miner last week.

“I support allowing agencies, including the Air Force, the flexibility to implement sequestration in the least harmful way,” she said.

That’s the right thing to do. It doesn’t make sense to take the “air” out of the Air Force when other options exist.

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The following editorial first appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

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Fri, 01/20/2017 - 09:01

Letter: The Homeless Ordinance

As I understand it, on Monday the assembly will be voting on an ordinance to permit the police to evict people camping in the downtown and make them move to a camping area in the Thane avalanche zone. I think that’s mistaken public policy. I’ve just hand delivered a 5 page letter to the CBJ in opposition. But what’s really needed isn’t my opinion. It’s a newspaper’s reporting of the facts. That said, if someone’s camped out in a doorway, it couldn’t be a more clear cry for help. And underneath that gruff scary homeless person is so often someone suffering the terrible diseases of mental illness and addiction.

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Fri, 01/20/2017 - 08:51

Win Gruening: Homeless Not Helpless

When Mayor Ken Koelsch recently proposed a city ordinance prohibiting camping in downtown Juneau to help resolve on-going issues with our homeless population, there was significant public reaction.

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Fri, 01/20/2017 - 08:50

My Turn: A Good Time for Kindness

Some time ago, the snow was mounded everywhere, deep and wet. As I gazed from my window, contemplating shoveling, I saw a neighbor plowing out the nextdoor driveway and mailbox — and then chug over to our mailbox, and plow it out as well. Such a welcome and unrequested act of thoughtfulness, of kindness: it lifted my spirits!

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