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      Congressman Thornberry talks defense budget cuts at Bell Helicopter

      After President Obama released a new strategy last week in a proposal to cut the nation's defense budget by almost 500 billion dollars, there have been a lot of questions about how that strategy is going to be implemented.

      Wednesday, Congressman Mac Thornberry paid a visit to Bell Helicopter and spoke about that strategy and what that could mean for Bell, and our area.

      One thing the congressman really wanted to emphasize was that the new strategy is just that -- a strategy.

      "Remember, the administration budget is just a proposal. They don't decide it, Congress decides it. And the President has to sign it into law," said Congressman Thornberry. "So whatever they propose to us in a few weeks is going to get a bright light of inquiry to understand the consequences of it."

      Nothing has been set in stone yet about where those budget cuts will come from but he did say there have been indications that some of the cuts could mean a reduction in the total number of troops for the Army and the Marine Corps as well as possible changes in military pay.

      "It is possible that there could be an attempt to cut pay and benefits for people in the military," he explained. "I think it's a mistake to change the rules of the game, to go back on your promise. If you're going to change something it needs to be for people just coming in, not for people who are already in but we don't know until they give us the details."

      Although nothing is set in stone, Thornberry had some hopeful news for defense entities in District 13, like Bell Helicopter.

      T h ornberry also was at Sheppard Air Force Basein Wichita Falls Tuesday, and he visited PantexWednesday evening. The congressman is also giving those groups his impressions about what could come out of that defense proposal. He said products from Bell are in such high demand, District 13 residents could be encouraged that the cuts might not affect our area too much.

      "The marines and the others who use Bell products for example are very anxious to get them, very pleased with them, that the efficiency of this workforce has been tremendous," he said. "So I think we're in as good a shape as we could possibly be."

      That's good news for Bell Helicopter.

      "The V-22's, the H-1's, the OH-58D's that we produce largely here in Amarillo are in high demand, they're performing well, they're saving lives in combat and they're very, very effective in operations," added Senior Vice President for Bell Helicopter, Robert Hastings. "So, we're encouraged that we're got that pull from the users in the field and we're hopeful that that will positively impact the budget cycle."

      T h ornberry says we'll know a lot more about the cuts come budget submission time around the first of February.

      "Then we know what the hard decisions are with people, weapons, budgets that'll really tell us. But Congress will spend months going through that with a fine tooth comb and trying to understand the consequences of what the administration proposes," added Congressman Thornberry.

      But until then, all we're left with is the "strategy".