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Sequestration hits Whidbey base

Roughly 1,200 civilian workers at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station experienced their first furlough last Friday.

Capt. Mike Nortier, NAS Whidbey’s commanding officer, said barring any changes, the employees will not work Fridays up to 11 days starting July 5, equating to an approximate 20 percent pay reduction through the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30.

It is unclear how many of the base’s 1,200 contractors will also be affected by the furloughs. However, contractors that 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 as well. For instance, the base’s recycling program will be closed 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. In addition, recycling collection services will be provided only three days a week.

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 veteran’s benefits are exempt.

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. The Fleet Readiness Center Northwest, the largest command on base, conducts most of the base’s depot-level maintenance and could be largely affected.

It remains unclear whether canceled airplane 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.”

 

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