July 8, 2013—Of the 80,000 personnel within Air Force Materiel Command, 60,200—more than 75 percent—are civilians. Approximately 57,000 of them will face job disruptions come the week of July 8, when the Defense Department begins furloughing its civilian personnel for up to 11 days through the end of September as a means of reducing the funding shortfall caused by budget sequestration in Fiscal 2013.
Earlier this year, AFMC Commander Gen. Janet Wolfenbarger said the furloughs have the potential to severely disrupt the command’s activities. Now, the organization is figuring out how to best counter the impact.
AFMC, headquartered at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, is responsible for developing, procuring, and sustaining the Air Force’s aircraft and weapons.
“Perhaps the most visible effect of the furloughs will be to the maintenance work performed at our depots, where we expect to see an estimated 25 percent drop in productivity,” said AFMC spokeswoman Michelle Martz. The depots are located in Georgia, Oklahoma, and Utah.
Some AFMC civilian personnel classified as “essential” will be exempt, such as those in combat zones or necessary to protect life and property (e.g., firefighters, medical professionals).
The command expects to see considerable impacts to each of its mission areas, including science and technology, lifecycle management, developmental test and evaluation, and sustainment, said Martz.
However, like the rest of the Air Force, AFMC is offering employee-assistance programs, like counseling services, typically executed at the base level. Under the furloughs, the civilian employees will see up to a 20-percent reduction in pay through the end of the fiscal year.
The furloughs will directly affect one-third of all personnel at Wright-Patt, which also counts the Air Force Research Lab among its major tenants. The base hosts some 29,000 Active Duty airmen and civilian workers.
To help its civilians cope with the situation, the base has hosted town hall meetings with information fairs, said Daryl Mayer, Wright-Patt spokesman. The base is working to figure out how to maintain basic services, he said.
“The [installation] commander has said there is certainly going to be an impact to the mission. You can’t avoid that,” he said. “The challenge is how you mitigate that the best you can. And supervisors at the individual work level are scheduling their personnel to make sure tasks get covered.”
At Robins AFB, Ga., another AFMC installation, some 15,000 of the base’s 24,000 civilian employees—about 62.5 percent of the overall workforce—will be furloughed. Robins is home to the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex—one of the three depots—as well as the 78th Air Base Wing, and more than 60 other units.
To mitigate the personal and financial effects of the furloughs, Robins officials hosted briefings for civilian employees to help them understand the options they have.
“There are a number of helping agencies available to assist with furloughed personnel, including [the] Airman and Family Readiness Center and the Employee Assistance Program,” said Roland Leach, Robins spokesman.
The furloughs will result in some base functions being closed on furlough days and others able to offer only limited services, he said. For instance, base officials are looking at closing or reducing hours at dining facilities and fitness centers, as well as some traffic gates.
Some 80 percent to 90 percent of the Air Force’s civilian employees don’t work in the Pentagon, service Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Larry Spencer told the Senate Armed Services Committee’s readiness panel in April. ‘They work out in the field. And I’m not sure everybody quite understands that,” he said.