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Wright-Patt commander expects budget cuts will continue into next year

The furlough of 10,000 civil service employees at Wright-Patterson has created a “bow wave” of unmet needs that will have repercussions into the next fiscal year, the base commander said Friday.

Col. Cassie B. Barlow, commander of the 88th Air Base Wing, expected mandatory sequestration cuts will continue into next year, but she said she did not anticipate layoffs at the base.

Most base employees facing furloughs will take a Monday or a Friday off to fulfill the mandatory unpaid time off 11 days, or one day off a week between now and Sept. 21, she said. The furloughs began this week.

“We’re creating a bow wave of sorts for ourselves, that’s what we’re calling it, because there are things that we absolutely have not been able to do,” she said at a press conference Friday at the 88th Air Base Wing headquarters.

Wright-Patterson is Ohio’s largest single site employer with more than 29,000 civilian and military employees.

Vehicle traffic at the more than 8,000-acre base with about 800 buildings was noticeably less Friday afternoon with parking places plentiful in lots accustomed to being at full capacity.

“The parking lots are empty, and the phones ring a lot more,” said Thomas C. Robinson, executive assistant at the American Federation of Government Employees Council 214, a labor union at Wright-Patterson. Furloughs have caused a slow down in work production, and the hurt to employees’ pay will be noticeable soon, he said.

“When we see it in our paychecks, that’s when the worries start coming in,” he said.

The impact of thousands off the job has been noticeable on the sprawling grounds between research labs, offices and classrooms and the closure of the civilian personnel office on Fridays and fewer hours at fitness centers, Barlow said.

“Every single service that you could possibly imagine is taking a little bit longer,” she said. She did not have an estimate on how much the total cuts will save, but said the base wing has cut 40 percent of spending outside of wages. The reduction in work days will mean $40 million less in employees’ paychecks, she said Friday.

As part of sequestration cuts that started March 1, spending has been cut from $80,000 a week to about $20,000 on building maintenance and infrastructure. “We’re creating an effect down the road that’s going to have to deal with at some point,” she said.

Sequestration would cut about half a trillion dollars out of Department of Defense spending the next decade, coupled with $487 billion the Pentagon has agreed to absorb during the same time.

“A 10-year-reduction is tough,” Barlow said. “It’s hard to fathom a continual reduction over and over and over and over again. The concern with any future furloughs is that we start to lose some really quality employees.”

With fewer people on the base, it was too early Friday to say what the fallout might be on surrounding businesses, said Paul Newman, executive director of the Fairborn Area Chamber of Commerce.

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