The U.S. Air Force says many of its combat air forces will start flying again after being grounded since April because of budget cuts.
The Defense Department received authority from Congress to shift about $7.5 billion from lower priority accounts to more vital operations. The Air Force says the restored flying hours represent about $208 million of that allocation authorized by Congress.
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) is the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee. He says if the Air Force can find the money to put its pilots back in the air, it can also find the money to end civilian furloughs.
Tinker Air Force Base is offering buyouts in an effort to trim 750 civilian workers from its payroll.
About 9,000 civilians work at the aircraft maintenance center, which is the largest in the US Air Force.
This is the fourth round of buyouts at the base since 2011 — with the first three leading to about 210 civilian employees leaving.
Union representative James Schmidt told The Oklahoman that he believes the goal of 750 employees accepting the buyout will be met. Schmidt said several workers who are 55 or older have been waiting for such an offer.
The Pentagon says the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration could leave the U.S. with a military that is simply unprepared for the most challenging combat missions. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told Congress in April that the military is eating its seed corn.
Several federal employees questioned 5th Distrcit U.S. Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.) on pay cuts they’re forced to take as part of sequestration during a town hall recorded last month by KGOU.
Delo Anderson wanted to know why Congress isn’t letting the Dept. of Defense make strategic decisions on how to implement mandatory budget cuts, forcing 800,000 defense workers to take 22 furlough days.
“I met with Leon Panetta last summer to ask about sequestration,” Lankford said. “His response was we are not going to plan for it; it’s not going to happen.”
Suzette Grillot's interview with Col. Lawrence Wilkerson
As Congress tries to avoid a looming set of sharp, across-the-board spending cuts that would strike the Pentagon and domestic agencies in just two weeks, a former State Department official says the Department of Defense could avoid “clumsy” automatic cuts by starting with personnel.
“In World War II, we had fewer flag and general officers than we do now,” said retired U.S. Army Col. Lawrence Wilkerson. “Wow. People are anywhere from 50-60 percent, depending on whose records and analysis, of the DoD budget. They are so expensive.”
Wilkerson served as former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s Chief of Staff from 2002-2005.