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Military Readiness, Local Economy A Concern As Scott AFB Deals With Impacts Of Sequestration

(via Flickr/KurtClark)

About 5,100 civilian workers at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois are being forced to take-off 11 unpaid days, as are civilian employees at military installations throughout the Department of Defense.  The furloughs begin July 8 and are a result of the automatic federal spending cuts known as sequestration.

Scott AFB is one of the largest employers in the St. Louis metropolitan region and contributes about $3 billion per year to the local economy.  Among many other duties, Scott employees contribute significantly to domestic and international security, transportation needs and humanitarian assistance.

“These people [civilians] are great patriots,” said Lieutenant General Robert Allardice, Vice-Commander of Air Mobility Command.  “Our civilian employees give so much more than what you might think.  They give of their life, blood and their soul,” he told host Don Marsh.

Original proposals from the Department of Defense showed civilians would be forced to take 22 days of unpaid leave prior to the end of September.  Jeff Michalke, a civilian who works at AMC Headquarters, said he is pleased the number of furlough days is cut in half though he and his colleagues were initially troubled because they did not know the effects of sequestration.

For civilian workers the furloughs equate to a 20 percent reduction in pay.  Michalke said his family planned and prepared for the cuts but some of his colleagues, who make less money than him, he said, face tougher financial situations.

Military Readiness

Many of Air Mobility Command’s missions require action be taken quickly and a workforce ready and willing to carry them out.

The furloughs are already affecting training.  “When you cut back on readiness training the ability to respond fast begins to detriment.  We aren’t there today, we don’t know exactly when we’ll be there but we’re clearly on a glide path that begins to jeopardize our readiness,” said Lt. General Allardice.

U.S. Representative Bill Enyart, D-Belleville, is the former Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard.  His 12th congressional district includes Scott Air Force Base.  Enyart said he shares many of Allardice’s concerns.

“I’m concerned too about the impact on readiness on Air National Guard tankers and Air Reserve Wing (932nd Airlift Wing).  They’re considered civilian employees…and if you’re not having them out there maintaining those planes, what impact is that going to have on our readiness?  It’s not only an impact on the local economy, the civilian workforce, but it’s also an impact on the readiness that can all add up to some morale problems that I frankly don’t think we need.”

Enyart said he thinks the near term future of Scott AFB is bright.  “I don’t see any immediate impacts to Scott – no closure – but I think we need to work to ensure that Scott remains the vital presence it is.”

“The DOD civilians employees are the corporate memory of the military…it’s hard to replace that kind of service and institutional memory.  We can’t be penny-wise and pound foolish here,” Enyart said.

The Belleville News-Democrat published a story last month which explains cuts and budget considerations at the Pentagon.

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Alex is the executive producer of "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.
Mary Edwards is a producer for St. Louis Public Radio's broadcast program, "St. Louis Symphony."
Don Marsh served as host of St. Louis Public Radio’s “St. Louis on the Air" from 2005 to 2019, bringing discussions of significant topics to listeners' ears at noon Monday through Friday. Don has been an active journalist for 58 years in print, radio and television. He has won 12 Regional Emmy Awards for writing, reporting, and producing. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, was inducted into the St. Louis Media Hall of Fame in 2013, and named “Media Person of the Year” by the St. Louis Press Club in 2015. He has published three books: his most recent, “Coming of Age, Liver Spots and All: A Humorous Look at the Wonders of Getting Old,” “Flash Frames: Journey of a Journeyman Journalist” and “How to be Rude (Politely).” He holds an honorary Doctor of Arts and Letters degree from the University of Missouri-St. Louis.