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Defense budget cuts to shrink AFA cadet wing

By: JAKOB RODGERS
February 11, 2012
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photo - The Air Force Academy Chapel Photo by STUART WONG, THE GAZETTE FILE
The Air Force Academy Chapel Photo by STUART WONG, THE GAZETTE FILE 

The Air Force Academy has eight months to finish cutting the ranks of its cadet wing by nearly 275 cadets, the academy’s superintendent said Saturday.

The academy has already reduced its ranks by about 125 cadets as part of a Pentagon plan to shrink military budgets to pre-war levels, said Lt. Gen. Mike Gould, the academy’s superintendent.

By Sept. 30, the academy must be down to 4,000 cadets, a 10-percent drop.

Gould told the academy’s Board of Visitors — a group of congressmen, ex-military officials and policy experts that reports to the Secretary of Defense on happenings at the school — that the academy plans to meet the quota through smaller incoming class sizes and attrition.

“In the past, we may have given cadets a third of fourth chance,” Gould said after the meeting.

Not now.

The budgetary mandate comes as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta works on a plan to shave $487 million from the Pentagon’s budget over the next 10 years. That figure could more-than double should Congress not intervene before a slew of mandatory cuts take hold in 2013.

Academy officials plan to cut the number of cadets admitted into the school and attrition — at times, from ongoing investigations — for many of the cuts, Gould said.

In early 2011, academy officials announced that 27 cadets were either disciplined or under investigation in a probe concerning the use of Spice, a marijuana substitute outlawed by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

In December, three cadets were charged in connection with separate rape cases. The cadets have yet to face a court martial.

“This isn’t about managing attrition,” said Gould, during the meeting. “It’s about upholding standards at the academy.”

Gould also told the board about construction projects planned for the campus.

Officials plan to break ground in late summer or early fall on a $40-million center that will serve as a hub for character-building classes and activities at the Air Force Academy.

The Center for Character and Leadership Development will take about 21 months to construct, Gould said Saturday.

The center will feature a glass tower that points 39 degrees to the north — a reference to the north star.

The project will be built using $27.5 million in federal money and $12 million from donors.

Contact Jakob Rodgers: 476-1654

Twitter @jakobrodgers

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