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February 2, 2013

Inhofe, 'Potential devastating impacts to Oklahoma’s defense sector'

Oklahoma City — U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, is warning of “potential devastating impacts to Oklahoma’s defense sector” — including the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant — should sequestration go unaddressed by President Barack Obama.

At McAAP, up to 1,700 civilian employees face furloughs if sequestration goes into effect, according to Inhofe. As ranking member of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, Inhofe is the highest ranking Republican on the panel.

Sequestration refers to $1.2 trillion in automatic across-the-board spending cuts for both defense and non-defense spending set to go into effect March 1 if the president and Congress do not agree to stop them.

“During the presidential campaign, Obama said ‘sequestration will not happen,’ even going so far as to pressure the defense sector to disregard the WARN Act and delay issuing pink slips until after the election,” Inhofe said in a statement issued from his Washington D. C. office. “Yet here we are with another one of his failed promises.

“The Department of Defense is now being told to prepare for sequestration and for furloughing more than 800,000 civilian employees.

“In my home state of Oklahoma, all five of our major installations will see budget cuts. As a result, readiness and modernization will decline and many civilian personnel will be let go or have their hours significantly reduced, impacting local economies,” Inhofe said.

In addition to employee furloughs, Inhofe said McAAP also faces:

• Cuts in civilian personnel performing installation operations and support functions

• Decreased installation and facility operation hours

• Decreased maintenance to installation facilities and infrastructure

• Decreased logistics and depots operations —receive, store, issue and stockpile surveillance

• Decreased weapons demilitarization

• Decreased weapons procurement due to decreased training, slower reset and reduced research and development funding

• Increased risk to war fighters

Inhofe referred to previous statements made by Department of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta regarding the looming cuts.

“Despite Sec. Panetta calling these cuts ‘devastating’ and ‘catastrophic’ to our national security, our commander-in-chief has chosen to ignore this crisis,” Inhofe said.

“If we are unable to avert sequestration, then cuts will occur to military installations.”

“I cannot stress enough how important it is for the chiefs of the services to fully explain the potential impact to our armed forces and their plans for implementing the reductions; only then will the public truly know how devastating the cuts to the defense budget would be.

“As ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, I am firmly committed to working with our military leaders to find reasonable alternatives to eliminate or mitigate the effects of sequestration.”

Recently, the Joint Chiefs of Staff issued a warning that the “readiness of our Armed Forces is at a tipping point,” Inhofe noted.

In response, on Jan. 28, Inhofe and his 11 Republican colleagues on the Senate Armed Services Committee issued a letter to Chairman Carl Levin requesting an open hearing for the Joint Chiefs to outline the impacts of sequestration on the readiness of our forces and national security.

In addition to McAAP, Oklahoma is home to Altus Air Force base, Fort Sill, Tinker Air Force Base and Vance Air Force Base. Should sequestration take place, Inhofe says the installations, as well as the Oklahoma National Guard, could be affected.

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Kari Dollins, left, and Autumn Wolfe take part in the non-objective “Modern Art” painting at Southeast Oklahoma Fine Arts Art Gallery’s second anniversary party Thursday. Party-goers were encouraged to add lines, swirls, etc., or paint a picture on the canvas. Around 8:30 p.m., the completed piece was auctioned off.

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