Without an approved continuing budget resolution, many government functions closed Oct. 1. On Thursday, Col. Patrick J. Rhatigan, commander 19th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base held a press conference to tell of the effects of the government shutdown on base operations with the furlough of 350 civilian employees.
“Flying training is continuing, deployments are continuing – that is an absolute must … the nation counts on us, we are going to get the mission done,” Rhatigan said.
“This uncertainty is extremely disruptive to the Department of Defense. The Air Force is attempting to minimize the negative impacts on must-pay bills such as our on-going operations in Afghanistan,” he said.
The concern at Little Rock Air Force Base is for 350 civilian employees who are furloughed, Rhatigan said. “We rely on our civilians, every day, to keep the Air Force in the fight.” There is a total of 625 civilian employees at the base, he said.
Estimates of the economic impact on the area are not yet available. However, the Air Base has an annual civilian payroll of about $29 million.
The civilian employees are depended upon to meet the mission, “Yet they are now facing a loss of pay for the second time this year,” Rhatigan said. The furlough creates anxiety and severe financial hardships on an already stressed workforce, and impacts the mission, he said.
“In the short-term, our airmen are covering down because … the mission cannot fail,” Rhatigan said. “But the long-term impacts of this shutdown remain to be seen.”
“All across the base you see our airmen stepping up, because that is what we do, because the mission cannot fail; we have to get airplanes in the air,” Rhatigan said.
“We need every single civilian back to work,” Rhatigan said, responding to questions. “Because, rest assured, we do not have extra money, and we do not have extra people, we need every one to get the mission done.”
Every function on the base is affected by the furloughs, Rhatigan said. While airmen are taking on the extra tasks to meet the absences, “But at a slower rate.”
Aircraft are slowed in returning service after maintenance, services at the clinic are slowed, making the affects of the furloughs felt in all services, Rhatigan said.
How long the airmen will be able to “cover down,” is an unknown, Rhatigan said. “Right now we are taking it day-to-day in getting operations done.”
According to information provided by 2nd Lt. Amanda Porter, deputy chief of public affairs, the Base Clinic, under the 19th Medical Group, will remain open.
However, expect increased wait times and delays in return phone calls.
Patients needing to use off base care, normal procedures for approval should be used.
Beginning Oct. 2, the commissary is closed until further notice.
Grounds-keeping for the entire base has been discontinued.
Custodial services have been discontinued for all base facilities other than Child Development and Youth Centers.
The 19th Civil Engineer Squadron will provide service only for emergency work orders – that is anything that would cause mission or work stoppage, or fire or safety hazard.