Rep. Thornberry Talks Defense Cuts

We're learning more about a new defense strategy plan President Barack Obama unveiled last week. Under this plan nearly $500 million in cuts would affect national defense over the next decade. But what impact will that have on Sheppard Air Force Base? Newschannel 6 spoke with Representative Mac Thornberry Tuesday during a meeting at the MPEC.

Thornberry's concern going forward is whether the administration will reduce the number of people in the Air Force, that's what he's keeping a close eye on. Representative Thornberry spoke about many hot topics at this meeting, but his main focus was Sheppard and the future of the base.

In front of a crowded room at the MPEC Representative Mac Thornberry spoke on what the
$487 billion defense cut would mean to Sheppard Air Force Base. The new plan would put a greater emphasis on Asia and reduce ground forces. Ten to 15 percent fewer Soldiers and Marines would be out of the loop. But when it comes to air and sea forces, there is a greater emphasis.

"The rumor is that the Air force will not have the kinds of reductions that the Army and Marine Corps. could have," he said.

Still precautions are necessary. Representative Thornberry is concerned recreational activity that keep morale up, like the golf course on base could be a target, since it doesn't pay for itself.

"Maybe we can figure out ways the community can work with the base to keep something going," said Thornberry.

Yet this is still uncertain since some Air Force regulations prevent community involvement. Representative Thornberry says looking at and possibly revising those regulations are at the top of his list. As far as the growth of the base is concerned, what we've seen in the last 10 years -- we will not see in the next ten years and fortunately that will not have an impact with the NATO Pilot Program.

"As long as we have an Air Force, Sheppard will have a key mission to train the people in the Air Force," he said.

Still there are challenges ahead. With November's announcement of thousands of civilian jobs cut from U.S. Air Bases, maintaining a strong base is key.

"Our biggest challenge is to be able to maintain a force that's credible and be able to do what we've been tasked to do," said Brig. General Darryl Burke with Sheppard AFB.

A challenge Congressman Thornberry says will be met.

The super committee's failure to reach a deficit reduction deal last November means an additional hundreds of  millions of dollars in cuts will take effect January of 2013. Those are across the board cuts of all defense programs. That can change if congress can come to an agreement before then.

The defense strategy plan is focused on a smaller, leaner government. It will be released to congress in the coming weeks.

Crystal Hall Newschannel 6.