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Scott AFB To Shrink With Pentagon Budget Cuts

The Belleville Gate entrance to Scott Air Force Base near Belleville, Ill. (via Wikimedia commons)
SSGT CHAD R. GANN, USAF | Wikimedia Commons
The Belleville Gate entrance to Scott Air Force Base near Belleville, Ill. (via Wikimedia commons/SSGT CHAD R. GANN, USAF)

Scott Air Force Base was not caught off guard by the smaller defense budget proposed earlier this week. On Tuesday, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hegel gave Congress his $496 billion dollar budget, which calls for cutting the military's size, reducing benefits for troops and scaling back spending on military equipment.

For the Air Force, the new budget means an 8 percent reduction in personnel across the board, a move Scott Air Force Base anticipated.

The Metro East base had already notified about 1,100 active duty personnel that they were eligible for early retirement or for "voluntary separation." There are about 5,500 active duty personnel on the base. Spokeswoman Karen Petitt said the Air Force is targeting particular ranks and career fields. She said those eligible typically have between six and 10 years of service. The applications for leaving or retiring are due by May 1.

Petitt said not every application will be accepted, though, and others will choose to stay in the service.

"Each person it trying to make the best decision for their family, if they want to stay in or if they want to get out," she said. "It’s a good opportunity. They wouldn’t have to go through their whole enlistment and still get some sort of benefit that they would be able to retain for a certain amount of time."

Petitt said after the voluntary phase is over, the Air Force will likely have to reduce personnel further. This means layoffs.  To determine who should be cut, enlisted personnel will , for the first time ever, face retention boards in San Antonio.  The boards will consider duty performance, career records and professional recommendations.

Petitt said about 1,000 service members at Scott are "vulnerable" for that process.

Nationally, the Air Force plans to reduce personnel from 503,400 to 483,000 in 2015.

Petitt said some civil staff cuts are expected later this year. About 5,000 civilians work at the base.

Follow Maria on Twitter: @radioaltman

Maria is the newscast, business and education editor for St. Louis Public Radio.