With the effects of sequestration and an 11-week furlough approaching, Col. Cassie B. Barlow, commander of the 88th Air Base Wing, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, conducted three town-hall style question-and-answer sessions June 17 and 19 at locations in Areas A and B to give base personnel the opportunity to ask questions.
Sandwiching each town hall session was a community information fair of base-helping agencies where civilian employees could obtain resources.
Hundreds of civilians met at the base theater, Kittyhawk Center, Area A, at the first session the morning of June 17. The two other sessions were held June 19 at the Air Force Institute of Technology in Area B.
Community information fair
Pamela Boyd, psychological health advocacy program outreach specialist for Air Force Reserves, north region, staffed a table in the base theater lobby before the town hall.
“There are a lot of Reservists here who do civil service work as well during the week,” she said. “This is affecting a lot of people, so we thought we would bring some information on credit building, financial management, temporary work agency services, job site assistance and (information on) worry, anxiety and stress. When things change in your life, we start to worry a little bit and it brings out some anxieties.”
The specialists’ stress balls were a popular item. “You can squeeze whenever you’re stressed; they’re always nice to have and fiddle with,” Boyd said.
Melanie McMann, psychological health advocacy program outreach specialist, said like Boyd, she hoped to let AF Reservists know that resources are available for them “Especially with the financial problems already out there with the furlough, we can help them find resources that will help them with their job or whatever they need.”
Coming early to get a good seat, Bill Johnson, credentialing coordinator for the USAF School of Aerospace Medicine in Area B, said he has been at WPAFB for nearly three years, and picked up information on resources he might need during the furlough period. He had come to learn what was going to happen during the period and what some good practices to follow were.
He said the furlough definitely will impact him, but his presence at the event and “hearing how they’re going to get us through” would help him.
Marvin Shelton, an administrative assistant at USAFSAM and a military retiree, had gathered information on employee assistance and Civilian Health Information Program (CHPs) materials at the community information fair. Shelton said he was glad to see the base chaplain’s table at the fair.
“It’s good to see that the chaplain’s services are here. This could be stressful for a lot of people. I’ve mainly come here to see what the base is going to tell us and maybe give us a hint that it might not go as long as the whole 11 days.”
The furlough will affect everyone, Shelton said, “losing that much money all at one time. I would have liked to have seen it – even if you’re losing 11 days – started earlier so you’re only having one day off per pay period instead of having two.”
“The ones I really worry about are the single parents and those at the lower GS levels where it is really going to hit hard,” he acknowledged.
Shelton said with his military retiree benefits and the fact that his wife is a contractor, his household won’t be doubly hit, “but a hit is a hit. We’ve already started planning and doing things within our budget to be able to survive it. If it goes longer into the next pay period and into our next fiscal year, then that will be a whole different story that we’ll have to deal with.”
Organizations represented at the fair included the Airmen and Family Readiness Center, 88th Force Support Squadron’s Civilian Personnel, Employee Assistance Program, CHPs, 88th Force Support Squadron child and youth programs and additional support resources.
Colonel Barlow answered more than a dozen people’s questions about the furlough. But first she outlined the differences between exempted and excepted employees with reference to sequestration:
• Exempted – Employees paid by a source other than operation and maintenance accounts. (e.g., Foreign Military Sales and National Intelligence Program)
• Excepted – Employees excepted from the furlough because their mission has to do with the safety of life or property.
About 10,000 WPAFB employees will be furloughed. Approximately 2,300 employees across the installation are exempt or excepted from the furlough. Exempt employees are in some intelligence career fields and foreign military sales career fields because they are funded under a different pot of money, she said. Excepted employees are people who impact safety-of-life and property every single day – firefighters (dispatchers and those on the trucks, but administrative, management and trainers will be subject to furlough) and medics, child development center workers and sexual assault response coordinator.
Key dates to keep in mind, the colonel explained, are during the initial week of July 8. Employees must serve eight furlough hours, or up to 10 if working a compressed work schedule, since it falls in the middle of a pay period.
“There are things on this base that will not get done from the 8th of July through the 21st of September,” Colonel Barlow said. “We cannot lose 70 percent of our work force for a day a week and still get the same amount of work done. It’s completely impossible.”
Other furlough effects will include the commissary being closed Mondays, reduced energy consumption and the base library changed to an information learning center.
Rules as outlined by Colonel Barlow include (but there are exceptions):
• Employees may not take other forms of paid time off on scheduled furlough day.
• Overtime and comp time cannot be earned during furlough, in general.
• Overtime and comp time cannot be used in lieu of a furlough day.
• Employees are legally prohibited from using government-issued Blackberries or using AF laptops, nor can they serve as unpaid volunteers.
• Supervisors will not approve, and civilian employees will not work, in excess of 32 hours per week.
There have been about 150 furlough appeals from across the installation filed with base leadership, Colonel Barlow noted. All employees on base subject to furlough will get a deciding official letter within the next few weeks.
The first week of the furlough falls during the second week of a pay period, necessitating all personnel subject to furlough to take a day off the week of July 8.
Local organizations and supervisors will determine each furloughed employee’s furlough dates. Some organizations are choosing the same day because that scenario fits their business; others’ will be staggered, Colonel Barlow had said at an earlier briefing.
Employees may ask to block their furlough days together, but the AF is encouraging everyone to take one day a week to best manage mission requirements.
Highlights of the unions’ Memorandum of Agreement are: (The MOA is on the Force Support Squadron’s page)
The purpose of the collective bargaining agreement is to implement steps and actions which will minimize any adverse effects on bargaining unit employees.
• Furlough time will be taken in whole days, based on employee’s normal work schedule.
• Part-time employees will receive a proportionately reduced number of furlough days.
• If the furlough is terminated, furlough employees on leave will be notified when to return to work not less than one work day before work is to resume.
• Employees on furlough will not be subject to on-call, call-back or standby unless management requires them to respond to an emergency.
Colonel Barlow reminded the audience of the Employee Assistance Program’s many resources, and then covered the 10 most commonly asked questions with reference to furlough.
To keep base personnel informed of current information regarding the status of furlough and the impacts that furlough may have to personal benefits and to review frequently asked questions and answers, visit the public website at: http://www.88thfss.com/furlough.htm.
For assistance regarding a specific question/concern not addressed on the website, employees may contact the furlough hotline at 937-904-3472 or email questions to email@example.com.