Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray visited Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield – the first of a 6-base tour – saying he and his administration want to protect the residents and employees of each facility. As a result of federal deficit reduction negotiations, the U.S. Department of Defense is calling for $500 billion in cuts over the next decade, including another round of base closures.
"There are rumors because of fiscal constraints and the draw down of Iraq and Afghanistan that the federal government and the armed forces was going to be doing some consolidations and realignments of missions and bases and also some talk about BRAC, which is Base Realignment and Consolidation Commission, which was last done in 2005."
Murray gave little detail about what state officials could do to prevent such closures, aside from encouraging regional partners and federal, state and local officials to protect and promote bases across the state. Shortly after Murray's visit, Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee announced that Pentagon budget cuts could force a 50% reduction in its C-5 fleet. The base's 16 military transport airplanes are among the largest in the world and can often be spotted flying over Western New England. Lt. Col. James Bishop is spokesman for Westover.
"The proposed changes will have of course an operational impact on base, but Westover will remain a viable part of the Reserve. And we are committed to fulfilling our global mobility mission."
Both Murray and Bishop say planning and promotion will be important in the coming months as the Department of Defense has outlined, in advance, budget cuts over the next 10 years.