ALPENA - With the implementation of the National Defense Authorization Act and the recent sequestration cuts, the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center is facing a reduction in staffing, as well as a tightened budget. But thanks to the hard work of its military and civilian staff and fiscal responsibility in past years, the base has some opportunities on the horizon that could lessen the impact of some of the the cuts.
Col. Bryan Teff of the CRTC said President Obama's enactment of the NDAA will cost the base manpower it needs to fulfill its mission. He said the cuts will take effect this fall, but the base will do everything it can to offer the service it is known for.
"On Oct. 1, 2013, we are going to lose 25 full-time positions here at the CRTC. That equates to 27 percent of our full-time manpower," Teff said. "That will be huge and force us to look at how we do a whole bunch of things. We will have to look at whether we need to shrink certain portions of our equipment and evaluate if we need to scale back certain portions of our operations. We will do as much as we can, but it will have a huge impact on our mission. We look at it as a permanent change to our structure, so we are going to have to be innovative and find a whole new way of doing business."
The recent sequestration cuts, a half-trillion dollars that impacts the military, will have some effect on the base, but not as much as would be expected. Teff said furlough days will be placed on full-time civilian workers, of whom the base has few. He said what is going to impact the base's funding is the government doesn't have a budget in place.
"That will have a huge impact on what we have going on for the rest of this year," Teff said. "It will impact your flying hours, your ability to travel and it will impact the readiness potentially. We are looking at ways to mitigate that and make sure we don't impact any units coming here to train."
Teff said the base's operations and maintenance budget is what will suffer the most. He said the base usually has about $12.4 million allotted for operations and maintenance, but it will be forced to operate on only about $3.3 million.
"We are really operating on 26 percent of our normal budget right now, so we have had to scale back on a lot of things like travel, equipment, supplies and facility upgrades, it will all get trimmed back this year," Teff said.
The pitfalls have led to one training event cancellation at the base because of concern over the cuts. Teff said there could be more to follow but he is hopeful other large events can be brought to Alpena to make up the lost revenue. He said one such event - Northern Strike -started last year. It is a training exercise that features air to ground support maneuvers. Teff said the base hosted the training last year for the first time and that it was highly received and recognized on a national level. He said the base intends to host the training again this year and if all goes well it could lead to other big events at the CRTC.
"As bad as all this is, if we can capitalize on some of the opportunities that are going to be presented to us here in the next few months we can change things in a positive way," Teff said. "The Northern Strike started here was the biggest thing to happen to this base in the last 10 years. We got national recognition for this exercise.
"If we can pull it off like we did last year it will show that even under these hard times that we have the efficiency and ability to execute our mission and (it) shines a huge light on us."
If the Northern Strike training goes well Teff said Alpena could be in line for an even bigger event. He said the Global Guardian would bring people to the base and Alpena. He said Alpena is being considered to host the exercise in 2015 and the only reason is because of the way Northern Strike was received.
Teff said he encourages people to contact representatives in Washington and share their support for the base. He said not only does the base serve as a military training location, but it also provides a a large economic boost to the local community.
"If fewer people come here to train, then obviously they aren't going to be downtown at the restaurants, at the hotels and stores," Teff said. "Our annual estimated economic impact was $97.2 million based on a bunch of factors."
He said without the hard work and dedication of his staff, things would be more difficult at the base and things even more murky as time moves ahead.
"We have a great team here. We really do," Teff said. "We are half military and half civilians that work out here and I think everyone is very focused and are doing a great job of getting through this."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com