Although the results may not been known for several weeks or months, the implementation of furloughs for about 650,000 civilians working for the Department of Defense — including about a thousand employees in Northern Nevada — began 10 days ago and will last until the last full week of September.
As part of sequestration, the DOD had originally planned to start furloughs for government employees working for the military, but the agency along with the various military services, delayed implementation and reduced the number of days; nevertheless, employees will lose about 20 percent of their pay during the next three months.
Mandated by a 2011 deficit reduction law, sequestration required the cutting of $85 million applied equally to defense and non-defense spending, and it affected both the active armed forces, the Reserves and National Guard.
Officials from both Naval Air Station Fallon and the Nevada Military Department said their installations will feel the brunt of the furloughs, while Hawthorne may not see a significant change in its economy because the majority of employees at the ammunition depot work for a civilian contractor.
Meanwhile, at NAS Fallon, base officials began implementing immediate changes in March that shortened hours at MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation) facilities and reduced employees who are paid from non-appropriated funds. Reduced hours affected the fitness center and swimming pool, while the base theater closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
“The biggest challenges are the civilian furloughs this month,” said Capt. Leif Steinbaugh, NAS Fallon’s new base commander who assumed his position on June 27.
With a three-month delay in the military implementing furloughs, Steinbaugh said it gave employees time to prepare for reduced paychecks. Furloughs, though, do not affect active duty personnel assigned to the air station.
Base spokesman Zip Upham said more than 400 federal employees will be affected by furlough days, but he said one sailor in security, an air traffic controller and the entire Federal Fire Department have been exempted.
“We will still provide services and honor our mutual aid agreement with the Churchill County Fire Department,” Steinbaugh said of fire services.
Based on a study conducted by the Lahontan Valley News with information provided by the Churchill County comptroller and DOD, the average federal employee averages $45,000 a year or a combined $18 million annually. With the number of furlough days reduced to equal 11 percent of pay, the economic loss to the employees and possibly Churchill County will amount to about $792,000.
By using the comptroller’s factor of at least three, a conservative figure that shows the number of times money changes hands from business to business, the county estimates businesses and local government could lose upward to $3 million in revenue and taxable sales.
Steinbaugh said funds for training have not been reduced and that the Search and Rescue crews are operating at full strength. Before he retired last month, Rear Adm. Mark Vance, commander of the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center, said training funds were not cut; however, the number of carrier air wings assigned to train at NAS Fallon has been reduced.
The LVN also conducted another cost analyst earlier in the year with the county’s help. If the Navy pushes back or eliminates a carrier air wing from training at NAS Fallon, the monetary loss will be six figures. Assuming an air wing brings 1,800 sailors, and each sailor spends an average of $150 during the six weeks in Fallon, the overall loss will range from between $220,000 to $270,000, thus taking a chunk out of the county’s taxable sales for drinking and eating establishments, gaming and general merchandise.
As a result of declining business, food servers could either lose their jobs or face a reduction of hours.
“The impact may be big, but we won’t see the full impact yet,” said Natalie Parrish, executive director of the Fallon Chamber of Commerce.
Parrish said some businesses are somewhat concerned about the furloughs and the reduced consumer spending in the county, but she said other firms are also waiting to see the impact.
“I hate to see sailors impacted by the sequestration,” said Parrish.
According to an article written by Sgt. 1st Class Erick Studenicka and scheduled to appear in the latest Nevada National Guard’s quarterly publication, Battle Born, more than 530 dual and non-dual status full-time Nevada Guard technicians will stay home on 11 consecutive Mondays, while part-time technicians will see their reduced time prorated. Non-dual employees are civilians who work for the Department of Defense, while dual employees conducting technician duties must maintain membership in a reserve military component and wear an uniform.
The U.S. Property and Fiscal Office for Nevada, which is in Carson City, indicates the furloughs will save the Army Guard about $1.1 million in personnel expenditures, and the Air Guard will save about $742,000.
Carson City may face a fallout from the furloughs.
Mayor Robert Crowell said earlier this year the National Guard is a big part of the community and that any degradation of service would be harmful to the guardsmen who live in Carson City and to the economy.
Not all will be forced to take furlough days.
“The paychecks of Active Guard and Reserve soldiers and airmen will not be affected because Congress exempted active duty service members from the furloughs,” reports Studenicka. “Also, civilian contractors will not be affected.”
Fallon’s armory, home to the 609th Combat Engineer Company, has one full-time AGR solider running the day-to-day operations.
Col. Felix Castagnola, the U.S. Property and Fiscal Officer, predicts the furloughs will cause difficulty for many soldiers and airmen.
“For many soldiers and airmen, the furloughs will affect their ability to make their mortgage, rent and car payments,” he said. “It could affect their ability to buy that one extra bag of groceries.” Staff Sgt. Kent Green, a supervisory supply analyst in Carson City, said his pay has been reduced but he still has a house payment to make.
Others express worry in the Battle Born article about their finances but have planned for tighter paychecks like Sgt. Oreana Henry of Fallon, a medical records specialist.
“I adjusted my spending months ago,” she said. “I plan to make with with just the essentials.”
Castagnola said furloughs will not curtail the National Guard’s ability to provide state or federal service.
The Hawthorne Army Depot announced the 29 federal employees will serve furlough days.
“We are meeting guidelines by reducing the number of hours in the work day,” said an Army spokesperson at the depot, which is 70 miles south of Fallon. “Previously, the employees worked four 10-hour shifts, Monday through Thursday. Currently, most employees work four eight-hour shifts Monday through Thursday, with staggered hours to provide phone coverage and contractor support, as they continue to work four ten-hour shifts.”
The spokesperson said several few employees will work an alternative schedule of Tuesday-Friday to support contractor work that occurs on a Friday.
The cuts will also hamper the number of hours earmarked for projects and other expenses.
“Aside from the reduction of pay, causing a fiscal impact to employees, the reduced work hours impact the amount of hours per week that can be utilized working on projects and day to day duties, which has caused slower completion and/or response times,” the spokesperson said. “The cuts due to sequestration have also impacted funding for supplies, travel and training.”
Several unsuccessful calls were made to the Mineral County Chamber of Commerce to discuss any potential economic impact on Hawthorne.
But based on the same formula used for Churchill County, the loss in income for the federal employees and the community could range from $57,420 to $70,000.