Civilian employees at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station face furloughs under sequestration

If sequestration goes into effect this Friday, an estimated 1,200 civilian workers at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station will be subject to furloughs, Navy officials have confirmed.

According to base spokesman Mike Welding, the furloughs would come in the form of one mandatory day off per week, beginning April 1 and running through the fiscal year to Sept. 30.

The furloughs apply to civilian employees only, not the 1,200 civilian contractors who also are employed through the base. Unlike civil servants, they work under contract and it’s unclear how they might be impacted.

“We simply don’t know what’s going to happen with contracts right now,” Welding said.

Among those who will feel the financial sting of the mandatory furloughs are 12 workers at Navy Whidbey Recycle.

“They aren’t happy about it,” said Paul Brewer, who worked as the recycling facility’s manager for years.

Brewer is not an official spokesman for the base or the Navy and was speaking as a private citizen.

Although the exact amount for each employee will vary slightly, the average worker at the recycle center will see a loss of about $800 per month in wages.

That’s frustrating when it’s the result of disagreement in Washington, D.C., he said.

“I think they ought to lock everybody in a room until it’s done,” Brewer said.

“Cut their pay until the issue is resolved,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, a Second District Democrat and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, held a press conference Monday.

“These automatic spending cuts are not just a Washington, D.C. budget gimmick. These indiscriminate cuts will have real and immediate impacts on families and workers in Northwest Washington,” Larsen said.

“The sequester must be replaced with a balanced plan that cuts the deficit while preserving vital investments that create jobs and expand the economy,” he said.

Larsen’s office released a report detailing the impacts of sequestration around the region, but in particular those that would be felt in District 2.

The report states that Navy and Marine Corps will be forced to delay or cancel depot maintenance of aircraft — including the EA-6B Prowler, Navy EP-3E, Pacific Fleet P-3 Orion and EA-18 Growler — in the third and fourth quarters of the year, the report said.

Also, the aircraft will not be forward deployed at the current operational tempo and they will be sitting on the tarmac on base instead of with the fleet, which is forward deployed.

“Strategically, delaying or canceling the maintenance of these aircraft will have an impact on the Navy and Marine Corps’ ability to project power to the Pacific Command and Central Command military theaters,” the report said.

Sequestration could also slow the procurement of P-8A Poseidons, the replacement jet aircraft for the turbo-prop Orion submarine hunters. They are supposed to begin arriving in 2015.

Larsen said he didn’t know if that would translate to a delayed arrival of the aircraft. Whatever the impacts, the congressman said he is confident in the base’s continued presence in Oak Harbor.

“I do not have any concerns about the long-term viability of the NAS Whidbey Island,” Larsen said.

A Navy official said procurement details are still being worked out and would not speculate on possible impacts that might result from a delayed arrival of the P-8A aircraft.

Similarly, it’s not yet clear whether canceled plane maintenance will affect flight operations, such as aircraft carrier training exercises conducted at Outlying Field Coupeville.

Finally, in a statement emailed to the Whidbey New-Times, base commander Capt. Mike Nortier addressed how the base would manage the potential loss of civil servants who might decide to seek work elsewhere.

“We have not actively surveyed our workforce on their future employment decisions, nor will we speculate on those personal decisions,” he said. “Naturally, we want to retain our highly skilled and dedicated workforce who we are continually communicating with on this important subject.”






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