The Dayton Daily News and WHIO-TV brought readers’ Facebook questions to Col. Cassie B. Barlow, 88th Air Base Wing commander at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base for answers about furloughs and the impact of a potential sequestration. Join the conversation at Facebook.com/daytondailynews or Facebook.com/whiotv.
Here’s what she said in a Friday interview to readers’ questions:
Laura Vondenhuevel: My question would be, how will the (Department of Defense) function properly if many of these furloughed workers decide it is now time to leave the government for more steady work? They could potentially lose many well trained and educated employees if they decide to find another job that isn’t costing them 20% of their salary every pay check.
Barlow: “… We certainly are at risk, I think, of having people just say OK, that’s it, I’m going to retire because I don’t want to lose 20 percent (of my pay through the furloughs of civilian workers). We haven’t seen that yet. That is a concern though. That is absolutely a concern and what we’re trying to do as much as we possibly can is … to calm folks down and tell them we are going to get back to some semblance of order at some point. It’s going to be a different semblance of order than what we’re used to right now. We’re going to have less money to operate with on a daily basis but we know that we are going to get back down to a regular battle rhythm, so to say at some point….
“It’s a concern, yes. Is it a huge concern? Not yet, and we’re doing everything we can to ensure that employees realize that this is a blip in the radar.”
Valerie Decker Mullikin: What will be the impact on retirees who use support services such as base hospital, commissary, exchange, theater, bowling alley, etc?
Barlow: “There will be a lot of those that are non-appropriated fund facilities, which luckily aren’t affected. So they should continue to operate as they do right now. But certainly there will be some effect. For instance, if we have less employees working in the hospital then what we’re going to have to is we’re going to have to send people downtown (to other hospitals) for appointments and those types of things. So there will be some effect and what we will be trying to do, as soon as we understand the specifics of reduced hours of operations of any of our facilities, and an effect like changing hospital procedures, we will get that out as quickly as possible to all of the population in the local area, the retirees and everyone living in the local area, so that they understand what the impacts are and they know what to expect. Once again, it’s all about helping with realistic expectations around this. …
“We have great relationships with all of the hospitals in the local area. We have a great Tri-Care network, and they’ve always been very supportive of us, so I don’t see that as an issue. But it will just be a difference for our employees and our retirees because they’re comfortable and they’re used to coming on base for their medical care.”
Vicky Webb: What effects will these cuts have on the current (information technology) contracts and will re-competing of these IT contracts be reduced?
Barlow: “For now, we don’t see any effect. If we have to cancel contracts, which we don’t like to do, we have to pay money to cancel a contract, so it’s actually more money coming out of the bucket when we do things like that. So we don’t like to do that. I can’t say right now what the effect on contracts will be. But it will be long term, so instead of a Fiscal Year 13 effect it will be more of a re-compete issue for the future. So the contract may look different in the future, so that would be the primary effect. But I don’t have any specifics on which ones.”
Dyanna Cochran: Will civilian insurance be affected?
Barlow: “Civilian insurance that is part of the federal government, no. That will still come out of paychecks and those premiums and everything will be paid like they were before, so there should be no effect.”
Becky Powers: If furloughs occur, how will it affect leave accumulation, time in service, and alternate work schedules for (Department of Defense) civilian employees?
Barlow: “All of those things will continue to accrue as normal.”
Kimberly Poole: Is the base working with the credit union and local banks on programs to help folks get through the next seven months without being late or defaulting on loans?
Barlow: “Yes, we are. Absolutely. That’s part of our work with the local community. We’ll do some town halls that are specific to question and answer, just the employees and us, so they can open up and answer whatever questions they have, and then we’ll also do some sort of a community information fair where people can come out and offer services and show what services they have to our employees to help them in any way they can.”