Since Friday, Ellsworth Air Force Base is officially under the new command of Colonel Kevin Kennedy. But with fiscal uncertainty, he faces a long road ahead.
On Friday, Colonel Mark Weatherington relinquished his position as commander of the 28th Bomb Wing to Colonel Kevin Kennedy in a symbolic change of command ceremony.
Lieutenant General Robin Rand, 12th Air Force Commander, says “His skills as a warrior, as a tactician, and as a leader are renowned throughout the Air Force. And you, the 28th Bomb Wing, are incredibly fortunate to have him returning home and putting these skills to use as your new wing commander."
Kennedy assumes the position just as the effects of the Sequester are beginning to be felt throughout the Air Force.
Officials at Ellsworth have cancelled this year's Dakota Thunder Air Show because of automatic federal spending cuts that took effect this month.
Colonel Kevin Kennedy, 28th Bomb Wing Commander, says, "Going forward, we do have some challenges. But we're going to work together with the great airmen of the wing, and with the leadership that's already in place here. We'll find some way ahead that will continue our success."
The U.S. Air force will likely be forced to furlough nearly 180,000 civilian airmen for 16 hours per pay for the remainder of the fiscal year starting this month. But it's uncertain how that impacts Ellsworth.
Colonel Kennedy says, "We're still working through exactly how that’s going to look. That's a constant moving target, based on the changes back in Washington, D.C."
Mayor William Griffiths Sr. of Box Elder says, "Not knowing everything. But I think it was supposed to begin March 30th, and now it's moved out to June. I think our governing body and our representatives are really working on this budget – to try to deal with this."
Colonel Kennedy says, "Our leadership at the 12th Air Force Combat and Command are keeping us in the loop, and we're making sure they understand the unique challenges we have at Ellsworth Air Force Base."
As Ellsworth braces for challenging times, it is uncertain how the budget cuts will indirectly impact the City of Box Elder.
Mayor Griffiths Sr. says, "I was in the service for 27 years, so I know a little bit of how the government works. I think government works slowly. It's very slow. But they do get things done in their own time. And I don't think it's going to hurt us at all. I don't think it's going to hurt us."
Colonel Kennedy says, "Budget going forward, into 2014 and beyond, will be a challenge as well. But it will give us more time, and we'll come up with a real way to make sure that we can provide expeditionary combat power for the nation."