Nearly 50 jobs cut at Springfield base

Positions are in national intelligence missions that were thought to be safe.

Close to 50 full-time jobs will be cut later this year at the Springfield Air National Guard Base in a complete surprise to the base commander.

Statewide the Ohio Air National Guard stands to lose at least 104 jobs.

The elimination of 47 intelligence and reconnaissance positions within the 178th Fighter Wing — the Springfield base’s largest unit — is unrelated to sequestration, stemming rather from the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal-year 2013 that President Obama signed on Jan. 2.

“We were unaware these were going to happen,” Col. Gregory Schnulo, commander of the 178th, said Wednesday. “Nobody knew it was coming.”

The jobs, which could be cut by October, were previously thought to be safe in the annual defense budget. Base commanders like Schnulo were informed only in recent days of cuts and changes.

“I’m still looking for clarity,” he said.

He doesn’t yet know who among the wing’s 365 full-time employees will be effected. The 178th Fighter Wing’s 882 total guardsmen are largely responsible for the base’s $99.4 million annual economic impact.

About 300 of them analyze classified satellite imagery, among other duties, for the National Air and Space Intelligence Center, and another 200 are involved in remotely piloting Predator drones.

The drone mission has been operating at the local base since February 2012, with crews flying overseas combat air patrols around the clock from Springfield.

The 300 guardsmen in the NASIC-aligned mission have been working out of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base until facilities in Springfield are upgraded to the required security standards. A 5,000-square-foot section of a base supply warehouse is undergoing a $750,000 renovation to bring some initial intelligence work here this spring.

The cuts likely will hit both of the wing’s missions.

Before the job cuts were seemingly taken off the table last year, Schnulo said 38 positions were eyed to go from the intelligence mission and nine were targeted in the Predator reconnaissance mission.

“Originally, we did believe they were off the table,” said James Sims, spokesman for the Ohio National Guard.

“The decision has been made,” he added, “and we’re going to have to move forward.”

For whatever reason, potential job losses in Springfield weren’t as actively discussed amongst lawmakers as changes to the Ohio Air National Guard in Mansfield and Columbus.

The office of U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, whose district now includes all of Clark County, didn’t respond Wednesday to requests for comment on the local cuts.

Even without sequestration — the automatic, across-the-board cuts that kicked in March 1 because Congress and the president couldn’t reach a budget deal — the Pentagon has to accommodate $487 billion in spending cuts within the next decade.

With the Air Force wanting to rid itself of the C-27J Spartan, Mansfield’s 179th Airlift Wing was on a path to closure, which would have eliminated 800 jobs.

But it now appears likely that the wing, located at Mansfield-Lahm Regional Airport, will revert this summer to flying the venerable C-130 Hercules, according to Sims. Mansfield has only been flying the C-27J since 2010. It’s unclear how the change in mission could affect jobs in Mansfield.

The 121st Air Refueling Wing at Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base in Columbus will lose six of its 18 aging KC-135 tankers, as previously expected. The Guard is unsure at this point how many jobs will be affected, but Sims believes 57 full-time positions could be eliminated in Columbus.

However, it was announced in January that Rickenbacker also is one of five Air National Guard bases in the running nationally to receive the new KC-46 tanker in fiscal-year 2018.

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