ENID — Should the congressional supercommittee racing to reach a deficit-cutting agreement before Thanksgiving wind up laying an egg, the Department of Defense could face nearly $500 billion in budget cuts over the next decade.
If the bipartisan group, made up of six Republicans and six Democrats, does not come up with a plan to tackle the country’s budget woes, a series of automatic, across-the-board cuts are scheduled to go into effect.
What effect those cuts, coming on top of $450 billion in reductions already under way, would have on Vance Air Force Base are unknown, but Mike Cooper, city of Enid military liaison and chairman of Oklahoma Strategic Military Planning Commission, said everything is being done to position the base to weather whatever austerity measures come.
“Through our protection and enhancement efforts, we have positioned ourselves to be the most cost-effective, efficient training base in the military,” said Cooper. “Plus, you have to be joint if you are going to be a base that stays.”
Cooper pointed out Vance has room to expand within its gates, has “the best air space in the AETC (Air Education and Training Command), is the only Joint Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training base in the Air Force and is host to an Armed Forces Reserve Center housing Army Reserve and Oklahoma National Guard troops.
“We are doing all the things we can to position ourselves for the future,” Cooper said. “We just don’t have a crystal ball to know what would happen. There are a lot of unknowns. We still hope that (automatic cuts) doesn’t happen. Everybody is in agreement that would be devastating.”
That sentiment was echoed by 3rd District Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla.
“While fighting two wars and facing a number of growing threats from abroad that will inevitably require continued investments in our national security,” Lucas said, “now is not the time to make unprecedented and immediate cuts to our nation’s defense spending. It is my hope that the supercommittee will reach an agreement by the Nov. 23 deadline in order to avert such disastrous consequences.”
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., couldn’t be reached for comment, but his spokesman, Jared Young, said, “There would be some state impact, but it is just too early to know for sure what that would be. Sen. Inhofe has said that amount of cuts would be absolutely devastating to our nation’s military.”