Despite Budget Crunch, Air Force Seeks to Hire Softball Umps

Possible Syria sorties hurt by lack of funds, but not balls and strikes

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John Pennell / Air Force photo

Softball is a hit at Alaska's Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

It’s nice to know the U.S. Air Force has its priorities straight: even as Pentagon budget cuts have grounded its warplanes and crimped, according to the service’s top general, what it might be able to do if war comes with Syria, it’s hiring umpires for Air Force softball games.

Alaska’s Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, near Anchorage, is seeking umpires for the 400 intramural games played at the base over each of the next three summers.

The Air Force takes softball almost as seriously as golf, according to the solicitation it posted Monday:

The Contractor shall provide all management, personnel, equipment, supplies, facilities, transportation, tools, materials, supervision, and other items and non-personal services necessary to perform as softball officials as defined in this Performance Work Statement. The Contractor shall perform to the standards in this contract. This includes the planning, coordination, and surveillance of the activities necessary to ensure disciplined work performance and timely resources application to accomplish all tasking under the contract. The Contractor shall be responsible for maintaining communication with the Contracting Officer (CO) and to immediately notify the CO of any problems that would prevent timely performance of this contract. The Contractor is responsible for and required to implement, and maintain management control systems necessary to plan, organize, direct, and control all activities under this contract.

Not only that: Air Force bean-counters require that the winning umpire-contracting-firm provide a “Quality Control Plan” within five days of the contract award, to ensure the umpires are certified and that the games start on time.

Softball, of course, is a great game to play during those few warmer months when slugfests can take place under the big Alaskan sky. And anything that can give airmen and soldiers a break from readying for war is a key part of what the military calls MWR, for morale, welfare and recreation. At an estimated $25 per single umpire per game (which seems to be the going rate), the cost of umps could work out to about $10,000 annually at this single base.

That’s not a lot of money amid airplanes costing hundreds of millions of dollars each. But every penny counts these days, according to General Mark Welsh, the Air Force chief of staff. He recently warned that the sequester-mandated budget cuts imposed on the military will make it tougher for his service to carry out any Syrian assignment it might be assigned. “We are not going to be as ready as we would like” for any Syrian operation, Welsh said last month during a visit to Japan. “That’s not a good place to be for us.”

Wonder if the Syrians play softball?