Air Force institutes civilian hiring freeze due to possible budget cuts

nwfdn f-35 pic

2012 was the year the F-35 finally took off at Eglin Air Force Base.

FILE PHOTO | Northwest Florida Daily News
Published: Monday, February 4, 2013 at 05:56 PM.

In preparation for the possibility of upcoming budget cuts, the Air Force has instituted a hiring freeze for all civilian workers. The measure includes termination of all temporary and term employees.Exactly how the measures will play out Air Force-wide has not been determined.
Eglin Air Force Base, which has over 3,800 civilian employees, has not yet released how many workers, if any, will be affected.
At Hurlburt, 15 temporary employees will lose their jobs on Feb. 23 and an additional 51 term employees will be terminated when their contracts expire, according to the public affairs office for the 1st Special Operations Wing.
Gate guards will not be affected, the office reported.
“We recognize the invaluable contributions of our civilian workforce; however we must address the current fiscal environment affecting all of the Air Force and the Department of Defense,” the office reported.
Lt. Col. Laurel Tingley, with the Air Force’s public affairs office, said the Department of Defense issued a memo last week advising the Air Force to consider a hiring freeze to deal with potential budget shortfalls.
“It’s one piece of the overall response the DOD is looking at to reduce spending and mitigate some of the budgetary uncertainty,” she said.
She said command staff is working to figure out how and when exactly to put the freeze into effect. She did not have numbers of how many people would be affected or how much money the measure would save.
“They are all in the process of figuring out how to execute this directive,” she said. “It’s a really complicated thing.”
Rocky Tasse, president of the American Federation of Government Employees union for local Air Force bases, said the freeze will continue to exacerbate the effects of recent cuts.
Over 300 positions we at Eglin and 100 at Hurlburt were eliminated over the last two years.
An over four-year hiring freeze was just lifted in the end of 2011, Tasse said. In addition, early retirement packages were offered last year and many long-standing highly specialized employees took the offer. Their positions have not been refilled.
That creates the potential for a vacuum of knowledge in the research and development functions, especially at Eglin, he said. Younger, less experienced civilian workers are moving in to take over those positions.
“There are a lot of kinks in the armor when you do that,” he said. “The mission-oriented, experienced people, they’re gone.”
In addition to the hiring freeze, Eglin and Hurlburt have curtailed non mission-essential flights or travel, such as air shows and flyovers or conferences and symposiums. They have also curtailed or stopped minor purchases of items like furniture and routine computer or software.
“We are following the Secretary of Defense’s guidance in implementing these prudent near-term measures that will help mitigate the nation’s budget risks, while minimizing any harmful effects on readiness to the extent possible,” said Col. Jim Slife, commander of the 1st Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt in a written statement.
Eglin has said they will offer additional details about implementation of the hiring freeze and other budget actions as soon as they are available.
“Air Force Material Command leadership is working to determine how best to implement the directed actions while ensuring our mission is accomplished,” according to the Eglin public affairs office

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