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Base furloughs to begin next week

Approximately 1,200 civilian workers at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station are slated for furloughs starting next week.

Capt. Mike Nortier, NAS Whidbey’s commanding officer, said in an emailed statement that, barring any changes, the furloughs will move forward as planned.

The employees will not work Fridays for up to 11 days starting July 8. That equates to an approximate 20 percent pay reduction through the end of the fiscal year, which is Sept. 30.

It is unclear how many of the base’s 1,200 contractors will also be affected by the furloughs. However, contractors who require Department of Defense employee supervision will also be furloughed.

“We recognize the tremendous burden this will have on our workforce and their families,” Nortier said. “Our civilians are an integral part of the Navy team, and we will do all that we can to support them and their families during this difficult time.”

“We are also committed to keeping them informed of any new developments.”

As a result of the furloughs, various services will be impacted. The base recycling program will be closed on Saturdays for drop off July 6 through Sept. 30, and hours of operation will be limited to 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Also, recycling collection services will be provided only three days a week.

“We have taken some measures to try and mitigate the negative impacts this will cause,” Nortier said.

The civilian furloughs, or involuntary time off, are part of the country-wide governmental sequestration which includes cuts to various programs that are funded federally, including the DOD, public schools and housing, as well as some non-profits.

Major programs such as Medicare, Social Security, federal pensions and veterans’ benefits are exempt.

The last unpaid furlough for the DOD dates back to 1995, where civilians were furloughed Nov. 14-19, 1995, according to Cmdr. Leslie Hull-Ryde, Defense Department spokesperson for personnel and readiness.

A second governmental furlough went into affect Dec. 16, 1995 through Jan. 6, 1995, but did not affect the DOD, she said. She added that “the current furlough situation is unprecedented.

“Planned furloughs are required due to the reduction in funding,” Hull-Ryde said, which the DOD expects will lead to “reductions in morale and effectiveness.”

Earlier this year, U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen released a report detailing the impacts of sequestration around the region, which included forcing the Navy and Marine corps to delay or cancel depot maintenance of aircraft.

It remains unclear whether canceled plane maintenance will affect flight operations, such as aircraft carrier training exercises conducted at Outlying Field Coupeville.

However, Nortier said, “some things have been cut, such as flyovers of aircraft during commemorative events, and many services on the base curtailed. We hope a resolution to the impending furloughs will be found in the very near future.”

More information on administrative furloughs can be found at www.opm.gov/furlough.

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