Personnel at Dover Air Force Base learned Monday afternoon what will happen and how the base will function during the government shutdown that started Oct. 1.
In a hastily called Town Hall style meeting – reporters had only 20 minutes to get to the base theater for the briefing – Col. Rick Moore, commander of the 436th Airlift Wing told his personnel that some of them will be furloughed during the shutdown and several offices on base would be shut down entirely.
The furloughs are affecting selected civilian personnel on base; some are specifically exempted from the temporary layoffs because their skills are considered necessary to keep vital base functions running.
Military personnel will continue to work and some may be called upon to fill in for absent civilian workers. President Barack Obama signed legislation late Sept. 30 that will continue pay for military personnel and civilians who are exempted from the shutdown.
The briefing centered mostly on technical issues affecting the non-military workforce, which totals approximately 1,000 personnel.
Moore answered a myriad of questions, ranging from who would be sent home – unit commanders would be making those decisions – to the effects the unpaid layoffs would have on insurance and health care coverage.
For example, Moore said, medical issues will continue to be covered, but premiums will be left unpaid because the workers won’t be getting paychecks. Once the furlough is over, those premiums will become due, perhaps all at once.
The current situation, dubbed a shutdown furlough, differs markedly from the administrative furloughs the base underwent earlier this year. Those were necessitated by the funding cuts under sequestration, Moore said.
The shutdown furlough takes place because no more money is available to run the government or its agencies, including parts of the military. No firm rules have been set forth about what happens if the shutdown extends past several days, Moore said, adding it would be up to the deputy secretary of defense and the secretary of the Air Force to make those decisions.
Moore said experience has shown legislation ending past shutdowns have included provisions for back pay.
Moore urged the civilian workers not to take the furloughs personally, stressing he is concerned about how Congressional indecision is affecting them.
“Quite frankly, I think it is exponentially worse on the morale of the base,” Moore said. “The uncertainty that is building up within our civilian personnel is taking a toll in a very real way.
“The fact that our elected leadership hasn’t figured out how to keep you employed is embarrassing.”