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March 4, 2013

News Briefs March 4, 2013

NORAD may shed 24-hour alert sites in Virginia, Minnesota

NORAD is considering taking two of its 18 Air Force sites off 24-hour alert, saying it will save millions of dollars without compromising its ability to defend against 9/11-style attacks.

A Government Accountability Office report released Feb. 28 said the North American Aerospace Defense Command might take fighter squadrons in Duluth, Minn., and at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., off 24-hour alert.

A NORAD spokesman says no decision has been made and both sites remain on alert.

NORAD, based in Colorado, told the GAO the move wouldn’t hurt its ability to scramble fighters to intercept hostile or hijacked aircraft. NORAD said it used computer models and other analyses.

The Air Force says the move would save $73.1 million over five years. It appears to be unrelated to mandatory budget cuts taking effect March 1. AP

Hagel vows budget cuts won’t erode US military

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says the Pentagon will not let the impending $46 billion in budget cuts erode the military’s capacity to be what he called the best fighting force in world.

Hagel says he is confident the president and Congress will eventually reach a consensus to avert what he predicted would be tremendous damage to the U.S. military.

The automatic, across-the-board cuts scheduled to begin at midnight will slash the defense budget through September. Additional cuts would continue as long as the budget measure remains in effect.

The military services have begun to provide details of the impact on the troops, including furloughs for roughly 800,000 workers, the delay in deployment of an aircraft carrier to the Middle East and deep decreases in training, maintenance and equipment programs. AP

MacDill cancels Airfest due to forced budget cuts

MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., has cancelled its popular show that would have featured the Navy’s demonstration flying team due to forced budget cuts.

The base in Tampa made the announcement March 1. Officials said the two-day show in April had to be cancelled because of the government’s automatic spending cuts that took effect on Friday.

MacDill spokesman Terry Montrose said they ìwaited until the very last minuteî to make the decision.

The show was scheduled for April 6 and 7 and was free to the public. It draws nearly 100,000 spectators to the area and would have included a show by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels. AP

Boeing begins selling off Kansas buildings

Boeing has begun marketing its vast Wichita, Kansas, complex of buildings as the aircraft maker prepares to end its operations in the city.

The Wichita Eagle reports the company offered a tour Feb. 28 of three large office buildings – the first of its 97 structures to go on the market. About 40 commercial real estate brokers and economic development officials took part in the open house.

The office buildings will be available for occupancy later this year, with hangars and other facilities to be available by the end of 2014. The office buildings range from about 100,000 to more than 300,000 square feet of space.

Boeing announced last year that it was closing the Wichita plant and moving work to Oklahoma, Texas and the Pacific Northwest. AP

China defends military spending

China is defending its booming military spending, saying its vast investments in the armed forces have contributed to global peace and stability.

However, in a break with previous years, no figure for this yearís defense budget was presented at a news conference held Monday on the eve of the opening of the annual legislative session. Spokeswoman Fu Ying said the figure would appear in the overall budget to be released March 5.

Chinese defense spending has grown substantially each year for more than two decades, and last year rose 11.2 percent to 670.2 billion yuan ($106.4 billion), an increase of about 67 billion yuan.

Only the United States spends more on defense.

Fu cited U.N. peacekeeping and anti-piracy patrols as examples of Chinaís contribution to world peace and stability. AP




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