LAYTON — March 1 is barely one week away.
That’s when Sequestration is supposed to kick in Р the word used in reference to cuts in spending that could mean staff furloughs at Hill AFB and reductions in programs, among other things.
In the meantime, proactive measures are being taken by Davis County, state and base officials.
“We are all anxiously awaiting the March 1 action or inaction that happens in Congress, knowing the potential can be significant,” said County Commissioner Louenda Downs.
“We want to be poised and ready to do what needs to happen,” she said.
That includes reiterating the importance of keeping the base functioning at its current capacity.
That’s important not only for the region’s economy, but for national protection, Downs said.
“We feel strongly the military shouldn’t take the strongest hits,” she said. “We’re very concerned these kinds of cuts to the military, in the world we live in, and with the threats looming on every side, needs to be rethought.
Downs lives in Layton not far from the base.
HAFB public affairs also weighed in.
“Air Force Materiel Command (the headquarters organization which oversees Hill AFB) will be forced to implement spending reductions that will have substantial impact on its mission if sequestration takes effect March 1,” said spokesman Richard Essary. “All aspects of the command’s mission of science and technology, life-cycle management, test and evaluation and the sustainment of the Air Force’s fleet of aircraft will be degraded” if sequestration occurs.
Cuts would be necessary for civilian worker pay, aircraft maintenance, research and development and testing and acquisition of new weapon systems.
Impacts for which Air Force Materiel Command is bracing include:
• Up to 22 days of unpaid furlough of civilian employees between April and September, if directed by the Department of Defense
“The Department of Defense (DoD) has said furloughs are a last resort, and if implemented, DoD civilians would be given 30 days’ n notice,” Essary explained. “Military members are exempt from furlough by law.”
There are about 11,500 DoD employees on base and 5,500 military personnel assigned there.
• Reduced weapon systems sustainment, resulting from funding cuts for the maintenance of aircraft and other systems
• Reduced testing of Air Force weapons systems
• Deferment of funds to be invested in long-term research and development projects, with officials saying that impact would be felt “for years to come.”
Team Hill has taken the following measures, announced in January and intended to save money, Essary said, including:
• Implementing a temporary civilian hiring freeze
• Release of non-mission critical term and temporary employees, with no employees yet released
• Cancellation of non-mission critical travel, limiting supply purchases, reducing some service contracts, postponing of non-emergency facility sustainment.
“If sequestration occurs, these near-term actions, already underway, will continue through the remainder of the year, further reducing the ability of each Air Force Materiel Command installation (and Hill AFB) to accomplish its mission. ” Essary said.
A $750,000 legislative appropriation is being sought to allow the Utah Defense Alliance (UDA) to bolster its efforts to keep Hill at current levels, said Tage Flint, a UDA director.