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Would defense cuts endanger Minot AFB?

Minot has yet another concern besides dealing with the flood, the oil boom and high housing costs a concern our municipal powers-that-be do not like to mention or perhaps even think about.

That concern is national budget cuts that will reduce military expenditures, possibly including at Minot Air Force Base. The B52s, after all, are so 1950, and the missiles so 1960. They are of another era.

Our main enemy, Al Qaeda, is on the move, is nowhere in particular. How do big hulking bombers or huge missiles that can destroy civilization help us defeat this enemy?

Drones seem to be the way of the present, even though their use is being seriously questioned in Congress and elsewhere. If drones are the way of the future, however, then Grand Forks Air Force Base may be better positioned than our base, since they are already involved with that mission.

Our base, we just learned, last year gave the local economy a boost of $522.6 million, an amount that could be cut into, especially if we move away from bombers and missiles toward newer technologies and different missions.

This possibility is a real concern, and it should at least be mentioned.

Even if base cuts were made, it wouldn’t be all bad. Other communities have, after all, had their entire bases closed and have used the facility for other purposes that are even more financially productive for the local area.

Think of the air strip and all the buildings including schools and housing units that would be available if the base ever did fully close.

Mentioning the possibility of cuts or even closure, of course, is not meant to distract from the good work of Air Force personnel now on duty. They are doing their job, following orders, using their skills effectively. Bless them for their efforts and for their readiness to respond to new orders and new missions if they receive them.

Of course the current much-discussed national budget cuts may not affect our base. But some reductions seem inevitable, maybe sooner rather than later. Some consideration of the real possibility of such cuts would better position us for dealing with them should they occur.

The old approach of our local delegation focusing on justification of the base and its current functions is, well, old as old as the bombers and the missiles.

(James Lein is a community columnist for The Minot Daily News)