Air Force offcials defend decisions

Wire reports

WASHINGTON — Top Air Force officials told Base Realignment and Closure commissioners on Tuesday their “bold” proposals will reshape the Air Force, improving its ability to defend the nation.

Acting Air Force Secretary Michael Dominguez and Air Force Chief of Staff John Jumper said they considered four major factors in their decision to close 10 Air Force bases and realign 62 bases: war-fighting capability, future defense strategy, excess capacity and opportunities for joint capability.

“We have looked to the future for our mission and our infrastructure requirements, and these recommendations provide for an Air Force that is and will be capable of responding to any challenge, in any theater, at any time,” the two said in a joint statement.

The officials said they would work to close the bases as quickly as possible, once the decisions are final.

“This aggressive approach provides the quickest savings to the Air Force and assists the local communities in their efforts to develop the closure and implementation plans necessary to begin economic revitalization,” the officials said.

The commission will spend the next few months deciding whether to change the report before sending it to President Bush and Congress this fall.

Cannon Air Force Base is among the bases proposed for closure.

BRAC commissioners were told the Air Force’s recommendations would affect 115 of the 154 installations that were evaluated.

American Forces Press Service said Dominguez reported the Air Force has been reshaping itself into a leaner and more capable force since the end of the Cold War.

“And, we will become yet still smaller,” Dominguez predicted, noting that technological advancements are providing more military punch while enabling the service to reduce its overall size.

According to American Forces Press:

The Air Force deployed more than 1,000 B-17 Flying Fortress bombers “to drop 9,000 bombs to destroy one target” during World War II, Dominguez said. Today, he said, one modern B-2 Spirit bomber “can engage 80 targets with 80 bombs in all weather with greatly increased accuracy.”

New aircraft slated to enter the Air Force inventory in the near future will be even more combat capable, Dominguez said, and “will fly longer” between downtimes for scheduled maintenance.

The Air Force wants to consolidate, close or realign those installations that don’t fit into the Air Expeditionary Force concept, Dominguez said.

Information for this report was provided by The Associated Press and the Department of Defense Web site.