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Oklahoma Senator Says Defense Department Could Make Less Hurtful Cuts

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Senator Tom Coburn says Congress needs to look at other pointless spending within the department before furloughing employees or halting training. Senator Tom Coburn says Congress needs to look at other pointless spending within the department before furloughing employees or halting training.
Employees with the National Guard, Army Corps of Engineers and the Army Ammunition Plant could lose their jobs or be forced to take temporary unpaid leave. Employees with the National Guard, Army Corps of Engineers and the Army Ammunition Plant could lose their jobs or be forced to take temporary unpaid leave.
Ross Adkins, with the Army Corps of Engineers. Ross Adkins, with the Army Corps of Engineers.
WASHINGTON -

Hundreds of illegal immigrants were released from detention centers across the country Wednesday.

That happened in anticipation of $85 billion in automatic spending cuts that are scheduled to happen in two days.

Republicans don't want to increase taxes and Democrats are worried that necessary services will be lost with the cuts. President Obama has a last minute meeting with Congressional leaders on Friday, before the midnight deadline.

The Department of Defense budget will take the biggest hit, and $46 billion in cuts will mean closing some airport runways and furloughs or layoffs for FBI agents and food inspectors.

Also, $11 billion will be cut from Medicare.

The government says 750,000 people could lose their jobs. That includes thousands here in Oklahoma.

11/15/2012 Related Story: Senator Tom Coburn Speaks Out On Wasteful Spending In Defense Department

Employees with the National Guard, Army Corps of Engineers and the Army Ammunition Plant could lose their jobs or be forced to take temporary unpaid leave. It's pretty much a wait-and-see game for Oklahomans who work for the Department of Defense.

Senator Tom Coburn says Congress needs to look at other pointless spending within the department before furloughing employees or halting training.

The future of thousands of Oklahomans is hanging in the balance.

"I think everybody is concerned, because it's going to affect their pocketbooks, obviously," said Ross Adkins, with the Army Corps of Engineers.

Adkins said there are roughly 600 employees who work with district lakes. All 600 are subject to furlough.

"Now, we're doing our planning and getting everything ready to go if it still continues and takes place in April," Adkins said.

The Corps isn't alone. The Oklahoma National Guard isn't prepared to release how the sequester could affect its employees, but said it is developing a plan on how to handle possible cuts.

The Army Ammunition Plant in McAlester is also preparing to make cuts. The plant employs a little more than 1,700 people. The Public Affairs Department said 1,466 might have to take a temporary unpaid leave.

Colonel Timothy Beckner said the plant is taking proactive measures to reduce spending by creating, "a hiring freeze, curtailing official government travel and eliminating all non-mission critical training."

12/5/2012 Related Story: Senator's Report Says Millions Wasted At Department Of Homeland Security

Senator Coburn says furloughs and cuts in training are not the answer to balancing the budget. He says a number of unnecessary jobs and projects that the Department of Defense can eliminate to make ends meet.

He suggests cutting the eight employees who serve on the Board of Geographic Names, which is responsible for naming streams, mountains, hills and plains across the U.S., and stopping the costly production of a 46-minute cooking video.

Read Senator Coburn's Report On Pentagon Waste

Coburn says the department is spending $1 million on developing a plan to send a space ship to another solar system, and that needs to stop, along with spending $6 billion on questionable, duplicative and unnecessary research.

The cuts that are set to start in March could cut $46 billion from the Department of Defense.

Coburn says his suggestions would save $67 billion over 10 years.

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