Shutdown means furloughs for more than 3,000 Scott civilian workers

News-DemocratSeptember 30, 2013 

If the federal government shuts its doors Tuesday morning, then more than two-thirds of Scott Air Force Base's 5,000 civilian workers -- or nearly 3,500 people -- will likely come in to work and then be sent home on unpaid furlough until the shutdown ends. Col. Kyle Kremer, commander of the 375th Air Mobility Wing talks about the impending shutdown. Read more here:



With the federal government shutting its doors Tuesday morning, more than two-thirds of Scott Air Force Base's 5,000 civilian workers -- or nearly 3,500 people -- came into work and were sent home on unpaid furlough until the shutdown ends.

Meanwhile, uniformed personnel will remain on the job through Tuesday, but won't get paid until the shutdown ends, said Col. Kyle Kremer, commander of the 375th Air Mobility Wing, which oversees the air base.

The other one-third of the workforce would continue to work at the base because they fall under the category of "excepted," which means their salaries are related to ongoing military operations or deal with some type of security or safety function, including security, medical and firefighting functions, Kremer said.

"Everybody will show up to work in the morning, and the military will continue to work," Kremer said during a press conference Monday afternoon. "And those civilian employees that are in the excepted category -- roughly one third of the employees on the base -- will continue to work in a non-pay status until the budget's passed."

The first paycheck to military personnel to be affected by the government shutdown is due to go out Oct. 15, Kremer said.

Kremer acknowledged the hardships many base personnel, both military and civilian, will face because of the lack of paychecks.

"So we try to provide counseling to them in advance and advice for our airmen," he said. "And our leadership, our commanders, chiefs, first sergeants, etc., are working with them to help prepare them to ask the right questions what to do if, in regards to the creditors."

Unfortunately, one of the base functions targeted for furloughs are the civilian counselors who provide financial counseling.

"So it's one of those sad Catch-22's where the support network to get through a scenario like this is being affected by the furloughs," Kremer said.

Meanwhile, some flight operations at Scott base, including aircraft that transport senior government and military leaders, will be curtailed as the shutdown affects their travel plans, Kremer said.

Missions essential to the Air Force mission, such as training flights and flights of KC-135 air tankers, will be unaffected by the shutdown, Kremer said.

"Mission-essential operations will continue," he said. "There is still a requirement in order to maintain safe air operations, so some of our training will also continue to maintain proficiency of the pilots and currency of those."

Back in April, as a result of the budget sequester's across-the-board budget cuts, Scott's 932nd Airlift Wing cut flight hours for the four C-30 jets -- the military version of the Boeing 737 airliner --- based at Scott.

The wing's two component squadrons ---the 73rd Airlift Squadron, a reserve unit, and the 54th Airlift Squadron -- had experienced cuts of 10 percent and 52 percent, respectively, in flight until September.

As senior officials curtail their travel, "It will drive down the demand for the support for that," Kremer said.

During the furlough period that begins Tuesday morning, the Base Exchange will remain open, though it's unclear if the base commissary, where groceries are sold, will be affected, said 1st Lt. Korey Fratini, a 375th Air Mobility Wing spokesman.

At Air Force bases across the United States, first-level civilian supervisors are expected to start the day Tuesday meeting with "non-excepted" employees in their units, according to Ann Stefanek, a spokeswoman for U.S. Air Force headquarters in suburban Washington, D.C.

These non-excepted employees will receive a furlough letter in person from their supervisors, Stefanek said.

"The employee will sign the letter and then they will proceed with the orderly shutdown of their activities," she said. "If they have military members in their office, they will turn over duties to them. Or they will cancel any meetings they have or any trips they have planned. They will go through that orderly shut down process on Tuesday morning."

The furloughed civilian workers won't return to their jobs until Congress has passed a continuing resolution to fund government operations and end the shutdown, she said.

The civilian furloughs are "very disruptive to our operations because we are already trying to work through a number of the budgetary issues associated with our programs in general moving forward," he said. "And so this compounded on top of that is just additional stress."

The very nature of planning for furloughs, Stefanek said, "is taking up a significant amount of man-hours in just the planning effort that's taking away form our ability to focus on the mission."

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