Defense Dpt.: Furloughs could begin in late April

13,000 at Wright-Patt facing 22-day unpaid leave.

Unless Congress takes action to avoid Department of Defense furloughs, most civilian employees — likely including thousands at Wright-Patterson — will begin to take mandatory unpaid time off work beginning April 26, according to Pentagon officials.

At Wright-Patterson, 13,000 Air Force civilian employees face the prospect of 22-day furloughs, expected to be one day a week through September. Fewer than 100 civilian base employees are expected to be exempt from the mandatory time off.

“We’re really going to feel it, and it’s just really regrettable,” said Army Lt. Col. Elizabeth Robbins, a Pentagon spokeswoman.

The Air Force Materiel Command, which is headquartered at Wright-Patt, anticipates furlough notices could go out around March 21 once an agreement is reached with the American Federation of Government Employees union, said AFMC spokesman Ron Fry.The furloughs would begin 30 days after the notices are sent.

“We have had positive, productive meetings with AFGE over the past several days,” Fry said in an email Tuesday. “Negotiations continue and we are confident an agreement is near.”

Troy Tingey, AFGE Council 214 president, said in a phone interview from Hill Air Force Base in Utah the union hopes to have a memorandum of agreement by the end of this week on how the furloughs will be handled. He said AFGE has asked the materiel command to send the notices no later than March 22 to give workers time to deal with the expected 20 percent loss in income during the time the furloughs are in place.

The Pentagon has estimated the furlough of 26,000 Department of Defense employees in Ohio will mean about $167 million in lost wages.

Once employees receive a furlough notice, they will have a week to appeal under the Merit Systems Protection Board.

Some in the Pentagon have expressed hope that furloughs can be avoided if Congress stops the sequestration and gives the defense department more flexibility on what to cut.

Tingey said employees have asked about the chances for avoiding time off the job. “We just tell them, look, you keep the pressure on your congressional (representative),” he said. “We believe it’s working.”