Fort Rucker - The future of the home of aviation is in the hands of Congress. If the legislated spending cuts known as sequestration take place more than 500 student pilots and 3,700 hours of aviation training will be lost at Fort Rucker.
The Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno testified to the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday. He said this loss of students will mean 250 aircraft couldn't be manned.
"So that's significant and equates to a lot of aircraft. Then what happens is you form this backlog and it will take us longer to get aviators out of the system at Fort Rucker. So that will cause us to have more unmanned platforms," said Odierno.
It could take 2-3 years to recover from this problem. Fort Rucker Commanding General Kevin Mangum sent out a statement to the army post's workforce. In it he says:
"Our bigger concern locally is flying fewer hours and training fewer students means less need for maintenance on our helicopters and, in turn, fewer mechanics and instructor pilots. This could result in the loss of many jobs at Fort Rucker."
In addition, the Army's 251,000 civilian employees could also see a 22 day furlough. This will result in a 20 percent pay cut for those employees.
A cut that could directly impact local communities.
"It would certainly be a big loss. It comes at a critical time when hopefully we're back on the road to recovery as far as our economy is concerned. I feel certain it would set us back across the country," said Ozark Mayor Billy Blackwell.
Currently, there is some discussion in Congress to push the start of the cuts back to the end of March.
General Mangum said a furlough would be the last resort, but may be necessary to meet the budget.
The sequester is the result of the Budget Control Act passed by lawmakers of both parties in 2011. They came up with that bill as a compromise over a deficit-cutting plan.