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Air Force chief wants to curb pay growth

GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE — The Air Force’s top officer says the service must curb growth in pay and benefits.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, who spoke at the Grand Forks Air Force Base on Monday, said pay, benefits and medical costs make up about half of the Air Force’s budget, according to a press release issued by the U.S. Department of Defense on Tuesday.

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Welsh made clear he’s not advocating for cutting pay, but he said he wants Congress to consider slowing pay growth.

That will help the service deal with other budget challenges, such as sequestration, the automatic spending cuts that went into effect earlier this year.

“These cuts are forcing our military leadership — and many others across the country — to make incredibly tough decisions, with no good options,” Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said in an emailed statement.

“We need to better support our military by ending these harsh cuts, and developing a comprehensive budget with targeted cuts that (provide) our military leadership the flexibility they need to reduce funding that isn’t essential, while still supporting programs that are needed.”

Welsh said he understands the military has a role in reducing the nation’s debt, but “no one would argue the mechanism of sequestration is the most effective way to do that. It’s absolutely not.”

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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