FAIRBANKS — Rep. Don Young on Wednesday warned that Fort Wainwright would be at risk of closing if military spending is reduced to levels being talked about in budget negotiations.
He said he won’t vote for a budget deal that reduces defense spending.
“If they cut defense like they’re talking about cutting it, I’m not going to vote for it. This is parochial. They’ll shut down Fort Wainwright in a heartbeat,” Young said in an interview with the News-Miner. “They will do that probably before Eielson (Air Force Base).”
An aide to Young later clarified that Young has received no information to indicate the Defense Department has plans to close or reduce Fort Wainwright.
Young’s comments, the aide also said, are in reference to cuts being talked about as part of budget talks between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner as a way to avoid the even-larger automatic reductions that will take effect unless a budget deal is reached before Dec. 31.
Young, a Republican, said Fort Wainwright would be an easy target because Alaska has the smallest congressional delegation possible — two senators and one representative.
“I’ve seen this before; we are out of sight and out of mind,” he said of Alaska’s congressional delegation. “If they cut back, we will have a challenge. If they cut back far enough, where do you think they are going to cut?
“They are not going to cut Texas, New York, even California,” he said, noting that Democratic-tilted California has 53 House members in addition to its two senators.
Is Young, who has seen many budget battles in his nearly 40 years in the House, being alarmist about Fort Wainwright?
“I’m not being alarmist,” he said.
Of the budget negotiations between Obama and Boehner, Young said he expects to be in Washington at Christmastime. He said he’s wary of last-minute deals.
“The biggest danger I see is they put the cat in the bag and dump it in the room and say you have to vote on it before you get a chance to pet it,” he said.
Of some of the items being discussed as ways to reduce spending, Young says he favors raising the Medicare eligibility age to 67 years from 65.
“We live a lot longer and are productive a lot longer,” he said.
He said he hasn’t looked closely at another cost-saving idea that has come up in negotiations: reducing the cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security.
Young said he supports Boehner, who must negotiate with Obama while trying not to alienate more-conservative House members.
“I think he’s doing great considering the cards he’s been dealing with and being attacked on the media side.”
Contact managing editor Rod Boyce at 459-7585. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMeditor.