FAIRBANKS (AP) — Sen. Mark Begich said the state’s military installations can expect significant budget cuts in coming years as the federal government moves ahead with reducing the deficit.
Begich, who is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he will make sure Alaska is treated fairly, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (http://bit.ly/tH4ADh ) reported Tuesday.
“Do we worry about cuts? Yes,” Begich said. “Do we worry about unfair cuts? That’s what we want to watch out for.”
The inability of the congressional “supercommittee” to reach a deficit-reducing compromise this month will trigger a $1.2 trillion package of automatic cuts in the decade ahead. About half of that is supposed to come from military spending, with the first cuts scheduled for early 2013.
Begich, D-Alaska, predicted Congress will enter the debate about military cuts before the automatic reductions take effect in 2013. He said his priority will be protecting the pay and benefits of service members.
Begich made his comments at a Subway restaurant while promoting the Operation Yellow Ribbon campaign. The effort — which is a collaborative effort between Begich, Subway and the Armed Services YMCA — has distributed about 25,000 yellow ribbons in the past week to honor deployed military service members, he said. By early 2012, Alaska will have about 9,000 military personnel stationed in Afghanistan.
Alaska military installations have come under budget-cutting scrutiny as recently as 2005, when Eielson Air Force Base narrowly escaped closure and an Air Force facility in Galena was shut down. Eielson was helped in the process by testimony about its valuable strategic location.
This time, construction under way at Fort Greely and Clear Air Force Station should give those installations some level of protection, Begich said.
“The amount of work being done out there is pretty aggressive, and that’s a good sign for us,” he said.
Information from: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com