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MacDill doing its part to offset budget shortfall

by Nick Stubbs
Thunderbolt staff writer

The good news with the recent BRAC list release is that it looks like MacDill will be around for the long term, presumably with plenty of funding to continue its expansion projects. But in the short term MacDill will feel the fiscal year 2005 budget crunch affecting most Air Force bases as all efforts are to direct resources to the Global War on Terrorism.

Hard numbers for MacDill have not come down yet to the 6th Comptroller Squadron but there has been a general directive to conserve and to come up with cost-savings strategies to help offset a $3 billion Air Force deficit in the operations and maintenance budget. MacDill squadrons are mobilizing and taking steps to limit spending to mission critical activities, and most believe MacDill will be able to do its part if freeing up money for war operations.

In addition to cuts of Air Mobility Command base, wing and headquarters funding, in the readiness arena, AMC has significantly reduced travel, including temporary duty for aircrew training, firefighter training, Inspector General exercise training, life support instructor courses and numerous professional conferences. Areas AMC officials are looking hard at to pull back funds include flying proficiency training, aircraft inductions for depot purchased equipment maintenance, contractor logistics support, remaining civil engineering operating funds, and a wide range of wing- and base-level operations, according, according to the AMC comptroller's office.

Many are not likely to notice a slowdown in construction at MacDill, where road, infrastructure and office building projects will continue to steam away, but it does appear about $4 million, in what are known as straddle funds, will not be making their way to the 6th Civil Engineer Squadron, said Michael Cooley, director of base projects. While there is a chance the funds, earmarked for carrying the squad over between fiscal years, could arrive late or in early 2006, no one is counting on it, he said.

"It's basically been erased, or at least we are not counting on it (the $4 million)," said Mr. Cooley, who added the significance of the cost-cutting is apparent, as straddle funds have not been threatened in the last five years.

The money was earmarked for several projects including $400,000 to update radios for the base Fire Department to a new frequency, which is mandated by the Federal Communication Commission. Some of the money was to be used for cleanup and repair of one of the firing ranges, closed due to erosion of the sand backstop during the intense hurricane season experienced last year. Construction of a soccer field, water tower repairs and hydraulic testing stands for aircraft maintenance also were on the list.

Mr. Cooley said the pace of construction work around base will continue without a hiccup, however, as funding for almost all the work under way is "locked in."

The 6th Logistics Readiness Squadron, being in charge of most of the vehicles and their maintenance on base, also will feel the cuts but it is hoped by taking steps to save in other areas, vehicle maintenance will not be impacted negatively, said Maj. Michael Todd, 6th LRS commander. In a worst case scenario, the plan is to at least make sure "mission critical" vehicles are taken care of, he added.

Already TDYs have been trimmed back to only those related to supporting the mission. Trips associated with required training and maintenance schooling will continue, but anything related to enhancing or improving capabilities, including most conferences and "extras" are being eliminated, he said. In the LRS, TDY's can amount to a fair amount of money over the course of a year, he said. In addition, office expenses and other obvious areas where savings can be realized are being scaled back.

"It looks like the control measures we are using will get us through it," said Major Todd. "If it gets to the end of the year and funds aren't there we may have some vehicles sitting but it will be prioritized" so only mission critical vehicles are the focus.

Major Todd said while he is confident watching the budget will allow the LRS to continue on without serious problems, "emergencies and the unknown" always are the wild card. Hurricanes and hurricane threats such as experienced last year are a good example.

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