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Sones: Travis tightening its belt, improving facilities

sones_SEDC_1_31_13

60th Air Mobility Wing Commander Colonel Dwight Sones speaks at the Solano Economic Development Corporation’s 30th annual meeting at the Hilton Garden Inn Thursday. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)

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From page A1 | February 01, 2013 | 4 Comments

FAIRFIELD — Budgets may be tight, but Travis Air Force Base is still more than able to carry out its mission, thanks to the dedication of its airmen and a determination to fill the needs of its service members and their families.

That was the central nugget of the talk Travis commander Col. Dwight Sones gave to the Solano Economic Development Corporation’s 30th annual meeting Thursday at the Hilton Garden Inn.

Sones said that the base is tightening its belt for the time being after the Air Force directed all major commands to start a series of cost-saving measures in case Congress allows massive cuts to defense spending, called sequestration, to take place in March and if Congress fails to pass an appropriations bill this fiscal year.

Expenses that are not deemed critical to the mission included cutting supporting flying missions not directly related to readiness, implementing a civilian hiring freeze, deferring repairs and renovations that are not emergencies and canceling all travel that is not mission-essential.

“Some things we will have to stop doing,” Sones said.

Sones described the measures as reversible and recoverable. He also described the situation as a very dynamic environment that could change quickly. Action is required now even though sequestration may not take place in March or may be delayed by federal leaders.

“We still have to deal with it,” Sones said.

Sones pointed out that the Air Force has not instituted anything like furloughs or reductions in force. He also promised those present that as Travis gets more information about the situation and any impacts, “We will keep you in the loop.”

He said Travis has gotten a reputation for stretching its dollars, with the base’s recent monetary awards for increasing its fuel and energy efficiency.

The Travis commander also used the talk to give Solano Economic Development Corporation members an economic snapshot of the base and the construction projects going on there.

Travis has $13.7 billion in assets and facilities, has a $1.4 billion economic impact and its spending generates about 5,000 jobs in the community, according to data from the base’s 2011 Economic Impact Report, which Sones quoted.

“And the 2012 data is expected to be very similar,” Sones said.

Travis still has a lot of construction in the works, even though it is less than in the past, Sones said.

It has seen several projects completed in the past year, such as the $5.4 million cargo-loading facility and the $11.9 million new fire station, as well as present projects such as the $14.5 million fuel-distribution system and the $1.7 million military working-dog facility.

The $70 million runway reconstruction and new assault runway construction is expected to be finished in April. The assault runway will be used for training by Travis aircrews and also by aircrews from other bases, “and that is huge,” Sones said. The savings from not sending aircraft elsewhere to train will allow the runway to pay for itself within three years.

A $22 million first phase of an airmen’s campus housing facility is under construction, with completion expected in January 2014 and the second through fourth phases expected in the next several years.

David Grant Medical Center just started the second phase of its planned improvements in November 2012, with $63 million being spent to improve the emergency room and outpatient facilities. Future improvements include the operating room, women’s clinic, and labor and delivery rooms.

Solano Economic Development Corporation President Sandy Person preceded Sones’ remarks by talking about Solano County’s economic situation. She said “there is a recovery in place” that has seen industrial vacancies in the county drop from 15.1 percent to 13.4 percent while unemployment dropped to 9.3 percent.

Person said that every community in the county has seen improvements with new businesses opening and bringing jobs to the area.

Solano Economic Development Corporation also recently embarked on a study funded by a $369,860 Department of Defense grant to examine and make proposals about better diversifying the county’s economy.

“This is not about shrinking Travis,” Person said. “This is about growing the pie.”

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or ithompson@dailyrepublic.net. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.

Ian Thompson

Ian Thompson

Ian Thompson has worked for the Daily Republic longer than he cares to remember. A native of Oregon and a graduate of the University of Oregon, he pines for the motherland still. He covers Vacaville and Travis Air Force Base for the Daily Republic. He is an avid military history buff, wargamer and loves the great outdoors.
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Discussion | 4 comments

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  • Rich GiddensJanuary 31, 2013 - 4:18 pm

    Solano County is a horrible rotten host for any military installation with its peace protests, high cost unionized labor, high crime rates, marijuana ''dispensaries'', unchecked encroachment with 2 deadly bird attracting landfills at either end of both runways. Its like Solano County is begging for Travis to be closed. I'm not so sanguine about Travis staying open and I base that on previous observations of the life cycle of military bases. When the Federal Government starts spending hog-wild on a base, its a good sign the base will soon be nominated for closure. And Sandy Person and her laughable ''economic development'' corporation? She seems to be clueless about anything military. The bad news has already started as the Department of the Air Force has notified you that California will not be a State where the new KC-46 will be based at. Those aircraft and jobs wisely I'll not be sent to the military unfriendly state of California.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • S KFebruary 01, 2013 - 12:05 pm

    I am not an expert nor rocket scientist, but here's a suggestion to save A LOT of $$$$$s. How about letting the civilian workers that meet the service time requirement of 30+ yrs. but not yet the AGE requirement of 55+ retire if they are wanting to. It does not make any sense whats so ever to have two systems in place based on when you hired on. I know PPL that want to go NOW, having the time, but not the age. Under your OLD plan one can go with 30+ yrs. but would owe an age penalty under 55, as where I retired from PacBell (S.B.C. now again A.T&T). But under your NEW plan even with 30 yrs. service, under 55, NO CAN GO. That is INSANE!!!! But with Telco, you can retire with ANY age once you have 30 yrs. service. Travis ought to do the same. As Moses once said, "LET MY PPL GO." >>LOL

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • richFebruary 01, 2013 - 1:14 pm

    Correct me if I'm wrong but I believe you're referring to the State of California employees retirement plan and CALPERS. I believe the FERS system has different rules. The State of California is far more generous with employee benefits then the reformed FERS system has. If Travis closes, many Federal employees will be ''Riff'd'' and they will lose quite a bit with no recourse or rights to be automatically hired elsewhere. GI's will simply PCS to new assignments elsewhere in the US or overseas depending on the Air Force's needs.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • S KFebruary 04, 2013 - 11:45 am

    No these civilian employees I am talking about are FED employees, GSes I believe.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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