About 8,700 employees at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base are expected to be furloughed starting Tuesday if Congress fails to reach an agreement to prevent a federal government shutdown, the base commander, Col. Cassie Barlow, said Friday.
“We remain hopeful that a government shutdown due to a lack of appropriations will be averted,” said Barlow, commander of the 88th Air Base Wing. “We have 29,000 valued employees here. It’s distressing that we have to plan for an emergency furlough.”
She said military personnel and about 3,200 “excepted” employees would continue to work during a shutdown. Officials are still determining which employees are considered exceptions to the furlough. The base would maintain operations in support of national security and public safety, including foreign military sales, medical staff, firefighters, security forces and some intelligence officials, Barlow said.
The military and excepted employees would not be paid until after appropriations are made, she said. The last emergency shutdown, which lasted a total of 26 days, happened in 1995 and early 1996. The affected employees then “were lucky enough when they came back to get paid, but that’s not guaranteed,” Barlow said.
The threatened shutdown is “extremely disruptive,” she said, at a base that is still recovering from planned furloughs resulting from the forced federal budget cuts known as sequestration. She noted that many base employees are still recovering financially from those furloughs, and there’s a backlog of work as well.
“There’s a higher cause and that higher cause is (supporting) the people who are fighting down range,” Barlow said. But “we’re still going to be the best department of defense in the world and the best air force in the world.”
She said the base’s employee assistance program will be available to help civilians impacted by furloughs, and officials can make referrals to social service agencies in Montgomery and Greene counties for those in need.
In a statement Friday, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said “a shutdown would delay military pay and hurt Ohio military families. Nearly half of the civilian workforce would be sent home in the event of a shutdown, according to the Department of Defense (DOD), while the rest of the civilian workforce, more than 25,000 Ohioans, would have their pay delayed. Nearly 35,000 service members would remain on duty, but have their pay delayed if a shutdown occurred for 10 days or longer,” he said.
Enshrinement ceremonies still on
The 51st annual National Aviation Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremonies will go forward Friday even if there is a shutdown, but the ceremonies would be moved to the Hope Hotel and Conference Center, which is just outside the Area A perimeter. The event is scheduled for the National Museum of the U.S Air Force, which would be closed in the event of a shutdown. Organizers scrambled to preserve the sold out event after the shutdown became more likely. The museum announced Thursday it will be closed for the duration of a shutdown.