Federal budget cuts have forced South Dakota's sole Air Force base to ground its bombers until September.

Ellsworth Air Force Base, which hosts the 28th Bomb Wing, announced Thursday that its B-1B Lancer bombers will not fly for the rest of the federal fiscal year.

However, officials said in a statement that B-1s currently deployed overseas will continue flying. The base will also continue piloting remote aircraft,  commonly known as drones, in combat theaters around the world.

Ellsworth isn't the only base affected by the federal cuts, known as sequestration. The Air Force is cutting 45,000 training hours from its operations between now and Oct 1.

Ellsworth officials said that "sustained curtailment" to flying operations will impact the base's "combat readiness, aviator qualifications and currency on the B-1."

"To mitigate these risks, Ellsworth leaders plan to maximize nonflying training opportunities both in the base’s mission simulator as well as on the flightline through maintenance operations," the statement said.

Col. Kevin Kennedy, the newly appointed commander of the 28th Bomb Wing, will hold a news conference at 1 p.m. today at Ellsworth.

The cuts are a result of a deal that Democrats and Republicans struck two years ago during budget negotiations. The parties created a provision that $1.2 trillion would be cut across the board from the federal budget over 10 years if both parties couldn't agree on a long-term plan to reduce spending.

After an eleventh-hour deal fell through, the automatic cuts took effect in March. Military officials must make $43 billion in mandatory budget cuts between now and October.

More cutbacks are expected within the military. Civilian employees are expected to face 14 unpaid furlough days this summer, although Ellsworth has not officially announced impending furloughs that could affect its 818 civilian employees.


(9) comments

Jim Stewart
Jim Stewart

The feds are trying to teach us a lesson. If the serfs dare to cut the rate of spending growth by 2 percent then the resulting cuts will be made as painful as possible.


The United States has been spending more for defense than the next 26 nations combined, 25 of which are our allies. Hard to believe that a little belt tightening can't be managed.


We just gave Egypt 12 F16s and a ton of $$$ but we cant afford to fly our bombers. Good call govt. Good call.


I wonder if Ellsworth will be on the chopping block next time around as it was under Bush. I have to think it will be, and with SD decidedly red , with one obstructionist Senator and a good chance of adding another, my bet is that Obama will close Ellsworth. Maybe Daschle and Johnson aren't looking so bad after all.


Thune made history in ’04, by defeating Daschle, a sitting Democrat minority leader, for the first time in 52 years.

In ’10 he was the only South Dakotan to run unopposed in the US Senate since direct elections were created in 1913.

In ’05, the BRAC commission took Ellsworth off the closure list for its role in national security.

If Obama decides to close Ellsworth, there would be a loss to the state in jobs and the economy.

It was reported during '05 that the base was the second largest employer in the state, and its economic impact was estimated at $278 million.


Obama’s defense budget called for new military base closures starting in ’15, even though in ’12 he said, “You know, I don’t think now is the time for BRAC, we just went through some base closings and the strategy that we have does not call for that.”

He was correct; elections have consequences.


What a sad day. Yes I agree we need cuts but our flight and ground crews need to stay proficient and active. The planes need to be used.


Careful what you wish for Jonnnnn that wasteful federal spending helps keep the bad guys out of our country. It also allows you to drive your vehicle on the interstate. It also keeps the banks from wasting your money. But sure, lets have it your way and let people do whatever they want and see where that gets us. (It worked for sodom and gomorrah)


Oh, bring on the sequester! Cut that wasteful federal spending! Bring it on!!

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