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Sequester Cuts Threaten Civilian Employees At Scott AFB

Adam Allington
St. Louis Public Radio

Illinois’ elected officials are warning that looming sequester budget cuts would have significant impacts on Scott Air Force Base.

Located in Mascoutah, IL, in the Metro East, Scott Air Force Base about 13,000 military and civilian personnel, making it one of the largest employers in the St. Louis region.

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin says the $85 billion in across-the-board cuts set to kick in on Friday would affect about 4500 civilian employees at Scott and would cause significant harm to the readiness of our military.

“You’re going to find a lot of critical civilian employees in our military who do important jobs, who are going to be furloughed one day a week for the remainder of the year,” says Durbin.

Durbin called the sequester, the worst possible option, at the worst possible time, saying the effects on the economy could be hard to recover from. 

Even though he himself voted in favor of the sequester last fall, he says he only did so because Republicans were threatening to default on the nation’s debt payments, and the sequester was the lesser of two evils.

“178 Republicans voted for it in the House, 28 Republicans voted for it in the Senate, I voted for it,” remarked Durbin.

“It [the sequester] was supposed to be so awful we’d never have to face it.  And what happened?  We went to super committee and the Republicans walked away and said, ‘not a penny of revenue.’”

Durbin says the Senate plans to debate bills this week which could reduce the amount of military cuts by half.

Congressman Bill Enyart represents the district which Scott is located in.  He says for the being mission-critical staff would not be affected, but that commanders also don’t have the freedom to make staffing decisions where they would be least painful

“We’re working to get more flexibility to make the cuts where they can, without jeopardizing national defense,” says Enyart.

The sequester would not touch the two largest entitlement expenditures, Medicare and Medicaid.  Across the river in Missouri, the Obama administration warned that Defense Department civilian employees could face $40 million in cuts, in addition to funding for education, environmental management, and air-traffic control.

Follow Adam Allington on Twitter: @aallington