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Military cutback looming | News

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Military cutback looming
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NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- More than $400 billion in budget cutbacks are slated for the next decade, and the nation's military could see some dramatic changes.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced the reductions in January. Military bases in all 50 states will experience cuts. But what do they entail?

THV received information in our newsroom that life-long members of the Arkansas National Guard are being forced out and replaced with younger recruits as part of federal budget cuts.

Major Chris Heathscott at Camp Joseph T. Robinson in North Little Rock gave an update about changes on the horizon.

"This has absolutely nothing to do with recent budget cuts. This is an ongoing thing," Major Heathscott said.

The annual retention process involves Arkansas guard members who have earned the points required to effectively retire.

"The Guard has got a process for all of our soldiers and our airman who have served 20 solid years in the National Guard," said Major Heathscott. "Every two years after hitting that mark, they go before a retention board to determine who the absolute best candidates will be continuing to serve in the National Guard."

Currently there are 600 members of the Guard with over 20 years of service.

Each member will go before the board every two years. This year, there are 45 out of 248 enlisted National Guard Members who will be forced out because they no longer meet minimum qualifications. Last year, the number was 35 out of 250 enlisted members.

"The packets are all rated. And the board members go in there knowing how they're going to rate each packet. And the board members don't necessarily know the individuals, they rate best on qualifications, evaluations, medical readiness," Major Heathscott said.

He reiterated that the process is not due to budget cuts on the federal level.

"That's just a program to keep the absolute best quality soldiers and airmen within our force healthy, the ones that are out getting their education as they're supposed to. And the ones that are flat out doing their jobs and have the evaluations to support it," said Heathscott.

Even though some of those members may not be retained in the Guard, they will receive retirement benefits.

But there are other potential federal budget cutbacks that could impact Arkansas: including a possible cut of the A-10 unit in Fort Smith which was announced late last year.

That decision rests with the U.S. Congress.

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