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Two views of defense budget cuts aired

  • Published
  • By Kathleen Wilson
  • Ventura County Star
A panel supporting military bases and jobs in Ventura County heard opposite takes Tuesday (Oct.11) on what federal defense cuts might mean.

Capt. Jim McHugh, commanding officer of Naval Base Ventura County, doubted the announced shutdown of a Seabee construction battalion next year would significantly hurt the base.

"We've got potential business coming from other areas," McHugh told members of the Regional Defense Partnership-21st Century at their meeting in Ventura.

After, McHugh declined to disclose what organizations might come to the base, which is Ventura County's largest employer.

Last week the Navy announced that a Seabee battalion known as the Fighting FORTY would be decommissioned after it returned from deployment in August. McHugh said no battalion members will be forced out of the Navy. The sailors will be offered jobs in the remaining Seabee battalions, could join other Navy units or may decide to end their tours in the Navy, he said.

The unit numbers almost 600 active-duty sailors. They comprise 9 percent of the 6,500 active military at the base's divisions in Port Hueneme and Point Mugu.

But the Air National Guard is facing dimmer budget prospects, an officer told the panel.

"The Air National Guard could be looking at a 50 percent reduction," Lt. Col. Bryan Allen told the partnership, known as RDP-21.

Allen works for the 146th Airlift Wing, which has 300 full-time and 900 part-time personnel. It is stationed next to Point Mugu's airfield.

Afterward Allen said he had no firm information on cuts but that he understands the Defense Department is taking a hard look at everything. Allen told the panel that two of the four air wings of the California National Guard could be eliminated. The wings assist states in fighting fires and other disasters and go to war zones to transport troops and supplies in large cargo planes.

Major Tom Keegan, spokesman for the California National Guard, said it's not really known what could materialize in the defense budget. "There's a lot of speculation with the Department of Defense budget out there," he said. "We know the Department of Defense budget in the future is not looking good. I can't tell you whether that will affect the reserve component, the guard
component, active duty or all of the above. We have no specific data that says it is going to be keyed to one area or the other."

Gene Fisher, co-chairman of RDP-21, said the group plans to hold a strategy session with Col. Paul Hargrove, commander of the 146th wing. If needed, the
group may appeal to its representatives in Congress for help, he said.
"It seems like we ought to be doing something soon if we're going to make an impact," Fisher told the group.