U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Thursday questioned Air Force Secretary Deborah James and the Air Force Chief of Staff, General Mark Welsh, about the Pentagon’s rationale for relocating ten C-130J aircraft from Keesler Air Force Base to Little Rock, Arkansas.
“I am concerned that the transfer of C-130Js from Keesler may not actually produce the savings that the Air Force predicts,” Wicker said. “Establishing a new group at Little Rock requires a substantial cost to relocate the planes and transfer hundreds of military and civilian full-time employees. The numbers don’t add up.”
Wicker’s comments came during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing to review the Air Force’s posture for Fiscal Year 2015.
“This proposal is not only shortsighted, but it may adversely impact our intra-theater airlift capability at a time when our services are evolving toward a more rotational deployment model,” Wicker continued. “I believe the Air Force must make force structure decisions based on long-term global force requirements, as well as concrete and defensible data.”
The proposed transfer of the C-130Js is the third attempt by the Air Force to move the aircraft in the past two years – first to Dobbins Reserve Base in Georgia and then to Pope Army Air Field in North Carolina.
The following questions were posed by Senator Wicker to Secretary James and General Welsh:
*What are the specific differences in costs to perform the C-130J flying mission at Keesler versus Little Rock?
*Is it correct that the Air Force’s proposal would move maintenance and wing management personnel from Keesler to Little Rock, where we would have to switch C-130 models and stand up another wing to support them?
*Will it be more cost-efficient to maintain the two C-130J squadrons at Keesler AFB? Will the new 913th Airlift Group require the movement or hiring of additional military and civilian employees?
*How does the Air Force save money by moving a squadron from Keesler Air Force Base, which has an existing maintenance capacity, existing wing management structure, and brand new ground infrastructure, to a base that will have four wings on it?
*How does the Air Force save money by moving C-130Js from a base with two C-130J squadrons, including a C-130J simulator, to a base that only has an Air Force Reserve Detachment that trains on legacy Air Guard C-130Hs?
In 2013, Keesler Air Force Base received the Commander-in-Chief's Installation Excellence award recognizing it as the top Air Force installation in the country.