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February 21, 2013

Grissom in holding pattern

Civilian employees could be forced to take furloughs.

Grissom Air Reserve Base — With $470 billion in defense spending cuts set to begin March 1, officials at Grissom Air Reserve Base are waiting to hear how the massive budget reductions, known as the sequestration, could affect military and civilian personnel at the base.

Military service chiefs testified earlier this month to the Senate Armed Services Committee that the 10-year, across-the-board cuts would have “dire consequences” for all branches of the military.

Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, the Air Force chief of staff, told senators that sequestration will affect every account and program in his service, according to the Department of Defense.

“If it occurs, it will significantly undermine your Air Force’s readiness and responsiveness today,” Welsh said. “It will significantly impact the Air Force civilian work force in the coming months, and its impact on modernization will clearly affect the Air Force’s future capability.”

Lt. Col. G.J. Lockard, public affairs specialist with Grissom, said military officials currently are considering requiring civilian workers to take 22 unpaid furlough days over a five-month period. He said military personnel wouldn’t be immediately affected by the cuts.

Grissom currently employees 615 civilian employees.

Welsh said the Air Force may have to furlough up to 180,000 civilian workers, which he said would mean more than 31.5 million man-hours of productivity and specialized expertise lost this year.

Lockard said Grissom officials are well aware of the looming cuts, but unsure about how they will affect the base.

“We know civilian furloughs are a possibility, but at this point we don’t know any specifics,” he said.

Lockard said workers must be given a 30-day notice before the furloughs kick in. That means workers would begin taking one furlough day a week until September if they started a month after the sequestration takes effect.

Welsh said the furloughs will result in a loss of more than 200,000 flying hours in the Air Force. He said roughly two-thirds of active-duty combat Air Force units will shorten home-station training if the cuts take affect. Training would drop below acceptable readiness levels by mid-May, he said, and most units will be completely non-mission capable by July.

What does that mean for Grissom?

“Like every other government agency, we’re keeping our eyes on Washington, D.C., to see what Congress decides to do,” he said. “Right now, we don’t know.”

Carson Gerber is a Kokomo Tribune reporter. He may be reached at 765-854-6739, or by email at carson.gerber@kokomotribune.com.

 

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