FORT WALTON BEACH — The civilian furloughs have been announced, but more impacts from the $45 billion in sequestration cuts to the Department of Defense could soon hit Eglin Air Force Base.
Brig. Gen. David Harris, commander of the 96th Test Wing, was the guest speaker at Wednesday’s lunch meeting of the Rotary Club of Fort Walton Beach. Harris gave an overview of the base and discussed the effects sequestration has had and will have on Eglin.
Harris said he received the final cut numbers for Eglin on Tuesday. The budget reductions were about 10 percent more than he expected.
The furloughs, in which all civilian and contract employees must take off one unpaid day a week for 22 weeks, will only account for about $5 billion in savings for the DoD. The remaining $40 billion must be cut from the department’s budget by Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.
“We’re about halfway through this fiscal year, which means we have even less time to react to that,” Harris said. “The furlough is one piece. The other eight-ninths of that are going to be reductions that we’ll feel in a variety of forms. Cuts to our operations and management budgets and infrastructure improvement, investment accounts, those will all have an effect on Eglin Air Force Base in one way or another.
“Reduced flying hours, reduced operations and our ability to maintain our facilities and things like that (will also be affected),” he added.
Harris said the civilian furloughs will hurt productivity.
“If you think I can do what I did with a furloughed workforce that I did with a non-furloughed workforce, then the answer is absolutely, positively not,” Harris said. “We are going to take a productivity hit. We are not going to get the throughput that we wanted. We’re not going to able to provide the level of care that we wanted to provide. We’re not going to be as relevant as you normally would. You just don’t take a cut like that and expect the product to be the same.”
He doesn’t expect cuts to active military at Eglin related to sequestration. If there are, he said they likely would be minimal.
However, there could be some cuts to military personnel at Eglin not associated with sequestration. Harris said Congress has set a reduction of slightly more than 3,000 active-duty airman across the entire Air Force to meet end-strength goals. Some of those cuts could be made at the base.
One program Harris doesn’t believe will be affected by sequestration is the F-35.
“There will be some tangential impacts to the F-35 because they are residents on my base, for instance, that provides them with a runway and provides them with utilities and those types of things,” Harris said. “So they’ll feel some of those effects, but for the most part the F-35 is being shepherded through its early development.”
Harris said the nation’s debt in general is making the country weaker and must be addressed. He said about $300 billion is spent each year on just the debt’s interest.
“We need to attack this because it is threatening our nation,” Harris said. “This is a really onerous burden that we are having to bare. But like when we’re fighting any enemy, it’s going to be uncomfortable and the conditions are not going to be ideal, but it’s worth the sacrifice to attack that which is not helping our nation to become stronger.”
Contact Daily News Business Editor Dusty Ricketts at 850-315-4448 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DustyRnwfdn.