Base could reduce hours

VIENNA – About 400 civilian employees received letters providing notice of proposed furloughs which means, for now, the entire Youngstown Air Reserve Station might be closed on Mondays from July 15 to Aug. 26.

While the flights may be grounded, the logistics of how the station will be affected still remain mostly in the air, according to Master Sgt. Bob Barko Jr., superintendent of public affairs at YARS.

All services at the base will be shut down while the employees are forced to take their unpaid leave with the exception of the security and safety departments.

“There are still some specifics to be worked out. This is one in many steps for this act to move forward,” Barko said of the letters.

The letters give a 30-day notice of the 11 days of unpaid leave for civilian Department of Defense employees at the base. The base will have “down days” once a week, usually on Mondays beginning mid-July, with the exception of also being closed the Tuesday after Labor Day. This will account for eight of the days. The last three have yet to be determined. Barko said they may be determined on each office’s operations.

Other civilian employees such as contractors will not be forced to take furloughs, though the impact of having the base closed down is expected to affect their work.

Most of the U.S. Air Force reservists have already completed their required 15 days of training for the fiscal year that ends in September, Barko said. Reservists are also required to spend one weekend a month in training. They may see a trickle-down effect on their jobs, he said.

The possibility of furloughs has been looming over the base since at least February when Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta informed the 910th Airlift Wing in Vienna that the civilian workers there would be among the more than 800,000 nationwide forced to take furlough days to save the Department of Defense money.

This will save the DOD approximately $2.5 billion and, locally, about $2 million for YARS. The furloughs were originally said to start in May, before being pushed back to mid-June and now mid-July.

The furloughs “could change on a dime,” Barko said, if Congress comes to an agreement in the next month or exempts the civilian employees like they did the Vienna air traffic controllers in March.

Either way, Barko said they will use creative approaches to solve whatever problems may arise and at the end of the day will continue to carry out the aerial spraying that the station is responsible for doing.