When sequestration hit, the Department of Defense, the U.S. Air Force, Air Combat Command and the Desert Lightning Team here felt its repercussions.
Whilst flying squadrons stand down, civilian furloughs take place, and other belt-tightening measures are being taken degrading readiness throughout the Air Force, Airmen around the installation may have a few questions as to where the money is coming from to fund different endeavors. The answer is different pots of money.
Sequestration took effect March 1 following failed attempts by Congress to agree upon a budget framework to reduce the U.S. deficit by $4 trillion within the next 12 years. Since Congress was unable to accomplish their goal, sequestration took place mandating immediate $1 trillion automatic and across-the-board budget cuts.
These cuts affected flying operations Air Force-wide as the flying hour program was reduced for fiscal year 2013 by up to 18 percent, resulting in approximately one-third of Air Force fighter squadrons standing down. The 354th Fighter Squadron here stood down as a result of the cost-saving measure.
Those familiar with the base may be scratching their heads after seeing the 354th stand down, while also seeing construction nearing completion at D-M’s gate 29B. Some may wonder why D-M and Air Force leaders would choose to bring up to standards a once-dilapidated guard shack, since both the Swan Road and Craycroft Road gates have traditionally been the only gates open for several years.
The answer: That’s what the DLT voted for when D-M was named the 2012 Commander-in-Chief’s Installation Excellence Award winner in March 2012.
The award came with a $1 million cash prize. DLT Airmen voted for a series of initiatives to put that money toward and re-opening 29B was one of them. The money was allocated at that time for construction and other quality of life initiatives.
“We talk to Airmen around the base all the time who ask us about the construction and quality of life improvements around base,” said Chief Master Sgt. Dawna Cnota, 355th Fighter Wing command chief. “This is their money in action. It was awarded to us for being the CINC Installation Excellence Award winners, before sequestration. Their hard work earned these improvements to the base.”
Construction at 29B has been ongoing since Jan. 22, but more recently construction began Feb. 18 on Granite Road between the 355th Mission Support Group and the 355th Fighter Wing Headquarters buildings. The project is to build a walking plaza for DLT members and better comply with DoD Anti-Terrorism and Force Protection standards.
By the time the project started however, sequestration was no longer a threat or negotiating tactic for those on Capitol Hill, it had become a full-blown reality just weeks away. So, why did D-M continue on with the construction?
The answer: The project was already paid for out of the Fiscal Year 2012 Budget.
“The important thing for our folks to remember is that the improvements that they’re seeing now have already been paid for,” said Cnota. “The check has been written and cashed with last year’s budget. They’re just now seeing the results of those allocations.”
It’s important to remember, Cnota said, that the budgeting constraints and initiatives of past years that Airmen are just now seeing come to fruition are the result of previous budgets. They have already been paid for and cancelling the initiatives and improvements would do nothing, but lose money that D-M has already spent.
“Funding comes from a variety of different pots, different monies,” Cnota said. “We can’t take back money that we already spent last year for one project and reallocate it toward something else, it’s just not coded that way.”