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180,000 Air Force civilians face furlough under sequestration

Feb. 6, 2013 - 04:34PM   |  
By STEPHEN LOSEY and JEFF SCHOGOL   |   Comments
An Air Force civilian worker drills holes for rivets while changing KC-135 Stratotanker spoiler ribs at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. The Air Force said widespread civilian furloughs would endanger its mission and restrict access to institutional knowledge.
An Air Force civilian worker drills holes for rivets while changing KC-135 Stratotanker spoiler ribs at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. The Air Force said widespread civilian furloughs would endanger its mission and restrict access to institutional knowledge. (Margo Wright / Air Force)

The Air Force is preparing to furlough about 180,000 civilian employees — essentially its entire civilian work force — for 22 days if sequestration goes into effect.

According to a recent presentation the Air Force made to Congress, this would dock their pay about 20 percent for the rest of fiscal 2013. The Air Force called the massive furloughs an “unprecedented action” that “breaks faith [with] civilian airmen critical to [the] total force.” The Air Force said those furloughs would endanger its mission and restrict access to institutional knowledge.

Federal Times’ sister paper, Air Force Times, obtained the presentation.

The Air Force has already frozen hiring, and is laying off up to 3,200 non-mission-critical temporary and term employees. The hiring freeze will slow the Air Force’s ability to field employees trained to manage nuclear weapons, and will hurt its intelligence collection and analysis programs, the presentation said. The Air Force also expects to replace civilian gate guards with military service members. And the Air Force is canceling non-mission-critical travel such as inspections, conferences and training seminars.

The Air Force also expects its flying hours will decline by 18 percent and its readiness will drop to “sub-optimal levels” if sequestration’s budget cuts kick in.

The combination of a projected $1.8 billion in cuts to wartime funding and $12.4 billion for sequestration on top of that would be devastating, according to the presentation.

Sequestration would affect more than 30 weapons systems, postpone 146 depot inductions and cause 85 engines to be pulled from service. The cuts would also lead to a 75 percent reduction in the sustainment of the Defense Satellite Communications System, and that would hurt military communications worldwide.

Certain radar sites for missile warning and space surveillance would see operations reduced from 24 to eight hours per day. Further, the Air Force could not participate with certain missions outside of Afghanistan, such as the continuous bomber presence in the Pacific.

The presentation provides a series of suggestions of what Congress can do to help the Air Force get through the fiscal storm. The final suggestion: “Undo sequestration.”

Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, issued a statement calling the Air Force presentation “highly troubling news.”

“Sequestration will affect mission readiness and our deployed personnel around the globe,” Turner said. “Civilian furloughs will delay systems testing — ultimately increasing end costs to the taxpayer and the amount of time it takes to deliver equipment to our warfighters. The president’s plan to gamble with our national security has turned out to be a losing bet — one I predicted when voting against sequestration in August of last year. The deficit of leadership from the President and the Senate will ultimately be paid back by those who have already sacrificed so much: our men and women in uniform.”

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