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Slashes proposed to Academy faculty, civilians and athletics 

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If President Obama's budget is approved as presented to Congress on Tuesday — which, it should be said, is doubtful — reductions at the Air Force Academy would be noticeable:

• Three percent of personnel, or 99 positions, would be eliminated, including 29 faculty.

• Ten major courses of study would be abolished.

• Ten percent or $400,000 would be sliced from the athletic budget.

The cuts, outlined by Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson at a press briefing Monday, come as Defense Secretary Charles Hagel proposes to downsize the military after 13 years at war.

The Army faces a reduction of 80,000 personnel or more, and the Marines, 8,000. The Navy is looking to put half its cruiser fleet on reduced operating status. The Air Force likely would retire the U-2 spy and A-10 Warthog planes, and reduce its force by 25,000 personnel.

When deciding where to cut, Johnson says she and other senior leaders focused on maintaining essentials.

"Our mission is still to produce great lieutenants to lead our Air Force and our nation," she says.

While the size of the wing will remain at 4,000, Johnson plans to cut 40 military trainer positions, one per squadron, which would leave each squadron with just one.

Commandant of Cadets Brig. Gen. Gregory Lengyel notes that all leaders at the academy participate in guiding cadets, not just military trainers.

Cuts that will accompany the faculty reduction, to be phased in over three years, include eliminating three academic courses from graduation requirements and doing away with 10 academic majors: basic sciences, materials chemistry, environmental engineering, philosophy, systems engineering management, biochemistry, general engineering, humanities, social science and meteorology.

Dean of Faculty Brig. Gen. Andrew Armacost says the decision about which majors to cut was based on low enrollment — fewer than 400 cadets are seeking one of those 10 degrees — and whether cadets could pursue similar study with a different degree. Cadets currently enrolled in one of the majors to be cut will be allowed to finish in it, he adds.

In athletics, 30 civilian positions would be eliminated, including nine assistant coaches, and a 10 percent funding cut would extend across 27 intercollegiate sports.

Athletic director Hans Mueh says some of the funding cuts could be backfilled from private sources, notably the Air Force Academy's Athletic Corp.

As for the 44 civilian jobs to be cut between fiscal year 2016 and 2018, the reductions would be achieved through reducing administrative support, restructuring support activities and more efficient use of the computer network system, Johnson says. It remains unclear whether 99 people will actually leave their academy jobs, because some positions not currently filled might be eliminated and some positions might be cut through attrition, she said.

None of Colorado Springs' other four military bases issued advisories about potential impacts of the president's budget.

Andy Merritt, chief defense industry officer with the Regional Business Alliance, says no base is safe from cuts, although growth at Fort Carson — from 12,600 to 25,000 troops in the last decade — "demonstrates the base has value." However, if the cuts go deep enough, the Army would be forced to slash entire divisions, placing Carson at risk, he says.

Merritt also says the reductions could trigger the first round of base realignments and closures since 2005.

But in that case, Colorado Springs could be a net gainer, Merritt says, as it was when the Air Force announced in January that the 4th Space Control Squadron at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico would move to Peterson Air Force Base, home of Air Force Space Command, bringing 90 active-duty jobs in an effort to share training and resources.

zubeck@csindy.com

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