EGLIN A.F.B. — Civilian employees of Eglin Air Force Base were notified this afternoon to begin making preparations for possible furloughs if Congressionally mandated "sequestration" is activated March 1.
Sequestration is a half-trillion-dollar across-the-board government spending cut required by law following the failure of the bi-partisan Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to arrive at a plan for reducing the national deficit. The "super committee," as it was called, announced its inability to reach an agreement on Nov. 21, 2011.
The memo received by civilian workers at Eglin announced the Department of Defense today notified Congress of its intent to furlough civilian workers if sequestration is activated March 1. President Barack Obama shielded active duty military members from furloughs.
"Notification of DoD's intent to furlough is the first step in the furlough process," the memo stated. "It is NOT an irrevocable decision to furlough civilian airmen, but you should begin personal planning in the event sequestration is not avoided."
Furloughs could occur one day a week for up to 22 weeks, defense contractor InDyne General Manager Jim Heald said during an interview with News Bulletin editorial staff.
"All government civilians would take one day off per week without pay," Heald said. "That's a 20 percent hit. We'll all be watching Washington, D.C., to see what's going to take place in the next week...I'm very nervous for my workforce. I have about 800 great patriots working for me. Hopefully Congress will do its job."
Because it works hand-in-hand with its government customers, InDyne, though a private company, would be affected by fuloughs.
"What we have is government oversight of us," Heald said. "When we are doing a test on the range, we obviously don't do anything alone. There are large teams that work a test program. ...Typically we won't do the test unless the test engineer, typically a government person, either military or government civil service, is there watching.
"It may slow things down. If we can't do testing on the day the government employee isn't there, we'll have to do something else and we hope that something else is not furloughs."
Crestview City Council President Ben Iannucci III said the impact of civil service employee furloughs would be felt throughout the community.
"How many people in Crestview either are in the military or work for the military?" Iannucci asked rhetorically. "It's a lot of people in our community. Furloughs would go through the fiscal year. That's going to effect everything from shopping to people thinking of coming here on vacation. Even things like Christmas shopping would take a hit."
Accompanying the memo received by civilian Eglin employees was a memo from Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.
"In the event of sequestration, we will do everything we can to continue to perform our core mission of providing for the security of the United States, but there is no mistaking that the rigid nature and scale of the cuts forced upon this department will result in a serious erosion of readiness across the force," Panetta's memo stated.
"I have also been deeply concerned about the potential direct impact of sequestration on you and your families. We are doing everything possible to limit the worst effects on DoD personel — but I regret that our flexibility within the law is extremely limited."
Heald said he was hopeful elected representatives will do their job and head off the spending cuts.
"I think Congress knows sequestration is a dumb idea," Heald said.