GOLDSBORO — The Air Force is talking about consolidating small bases into "superbases," and saving millions of dollars. However, the discussion is still in the early stages of planning.
The Air Force said that its bases and people are spread all across America and the world. The top brass think that they could do a better job with fewer facilities.
This change could effect bases in North Carolina. Although no formal list exist, Seymour Johnson has not been wiped off the list of possibilities.
The Air Force said that keeping 48 bases up and running simply is not practical anymore. With the cold war over, they want to downsize, and eliminate smaller bases across the country to build a few of the larger ones into "superbases."
"We've downsized the Air Force in the last eight or ten years by about 40 percent," General Richard Hawley said. "We have only downsized the infrastructure by about 20 percent. So we got about half way there."
Seymour Johnson is a small base with roughly 4,500 active duty personnel.
The remote possibility of closing caught the attention of Goldsboro businesses that depend on local airmen for much of their profits.
"We make sure that sure that all of our lenders have military people in mind when they set their standards for financing," Business Manager Gary Moore said. "They know that military may be changing bases or relocating."
Air force officials said that it will still be several months before it will know which, if any bases will be cut back.
"I'll know better probably in a couple of months after we finish flushing out the concept and begin to put a little meat on the bones of an idea."
The Air Force cannot make this move on its own. Congress must also approve any decision, and pass laws to make the cutbacks a reality.
Congressmen will probably address this issue because 1998 is an election year. North Carolina politicians will more than likely stand in the way of this proposal.
The proposal could happen next year, and defense secretary William Cohen is also talking about cutbacks in the year 2001 and 2003. However, it is still very early in the process.