Thousands of Wright-Patterson civilian employees remain in a months-long waiting mode, after it was announced Monday that furlough notices were on hold.
The base had said 14-day furlough notices could be sent early this week to about 13,000 employees, but that plan is on hold while Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel reviews what additional actions to take with furloughs and determine exempted “mission critical” positions.
“What we’ve been told is they are on hold until Secretary Hagel decides what course he wants to take,” Wright-Patterson spokesman Daryl Mayer said.
Reducing furlough days is “absolutely the first choice,” Col. Cassie B. Barlow, 88th Air Base Wing commander at Wright-Patterson, said in an interview Monday with WHIO-TV.
“I actually think it’s a good sign that we’re still kind of waiting for guidance,” she said. “I think that means that people are working really hard to make it go away.”
The Air Force must cut $10.8 billion by Oct. 1 as part of mandatory budget reductions through sequestration. Originally, the Department of Defense had announced 22-day furloughs.
Air Force Materiel Command, headquartered at Wright-Patterson, hoped to reduce the number of furlough days at least an additional seven days beyond the anticipated 14 days off, according to a labor leader.
But that hasn’t happened because of the Department of Defense position that civilian employees in each military branch must have the same number of unpaid days, said Troy Tingey, American Federation of Government Employees Council 214.
“The Air Force thinks they can cut the furlough days in half and still afford some flying days,” Tingey said in a telephone interview at Hill Air Force Base in Utah.
AFMC spokeswoman Susan Murphy said she was not aware of talk of fewer unpaid days off. “As of today, we have not received information on when the furlough notices are expected to be delivered,” she said Monday. “Any decision on the notices and the number of furlough days for civilians rests with the Department of Defense.”
Furlough notices will not go out until exemptions have been determined, and no timeline for that to occur has been released, according to Army Lt. Col. Elizabeth Robbins, a Pentagon spokeswoman.
“I think it’s very unlikely that furloughs will be eliminated given the challenges facing the department,” she said.
As of now, the union has reached a memorandum of agreement with AFMC on 14-day furloughs, taken one day a week, Tingey said.
The delays have left employees frustrated, the union leader said.
“There’s still no certainty to it,” he said. “We really don’t know what button to push … to get some movement.”
The extended wait could be “good news” if it means fewer unpaid days off the job, he said.
Workers would receive notice at least 30 days prior to the first furlough day. Defense leaders have said unpaid time off would begin in mid-June.
Readers have told us that military news is important to them and we have a reporter dedicated to bringing you the latest. Barrie Barber covers Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and military affairs for the newspaper. Contact him at (937)225-2363 or email Barrie.Barber@coxinc.com.