Palazzo grills Air Force officials on budget cuts

WASHINGTON, DC (WLOX) - Congressman Steven Palazzo grilled Air Force leadership about proposed budget cuts Friday at a House Armed Services Committee hearing in Washington. The proposed budget would move 10 C-130J aircraft from Keesler Air Force Base to Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas.

Palazzo demanded justification for moving the aircraft and said he will, "fight to kill this proposal, just as I've fought to kill the previous two." He said moving the planes out of South Mississippi would have no fiscal or operational benefits.

Palazzo said Air Force General Paul Selva claimed they could save 600 billets and $100 million by moving the planes, but the move itself was budget neutral.

"I have a tremendous amount of respect for General Selva, but I think whoever did the math on that one is just plain wrong," said Palazzo. "I'm a CPA and I did the math. We are talking about deactivating the 815th and deactivating the 345th which means about 185 reservists, 145 active duty and 35 civilians."

Palazzo said the only savings the Air Force would see from the move is in pay and benefits. He also said the $58 million that has been used to expand Keesler since Hurricane Katrina to accommodate the planes would be wasted.

"I am failing to see where we get anywhere near the $100 million in savings by moving these planes to a base that is already stretched too thin," said Palazzo.

The Congressman also went on to point out the numerous awards Keesler and airmen at the base have received. Keesler was named as the Air Force's top installation in 2013.

"I am sorry, but I am not going to let the Air Force get away with moving families, disrupting communities and moving our airmen around whenever they feel like it without justification," said Palazzo.

Palazzo requested a full cost justification report be submitted to his office as soon as possible.

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