News>Sequestered: Academy feels effects, but graduation, in-processing still on
The Air Force Thunderbirds Aerial Demonstration Squadron leads off the hat toss at the end of the Air Force Academy's Class of 2011 graduation ceremony May 25, 2011, at Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colo. The Thunderbirds will not fly at the 2013 graduation ceremony due to the U.S. government sequestration that took effect March 1, 2013. (U.S. Air Force photo/Ray McCoy)
The Air Force Thunderbirds Aerial Demonstration Squadron leads off the hat toss at the end of the Air Force Academy's Class of 2011 graduation ceremony May 25, 2011, at Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Air Force photo/Ray McCoy)
3/8/2013 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Sequestration took effect at midnight March 1, potentially affecting nearly 1,500 civilian employees at the Academy, but it is not expected to push back Class of 2013 graduation or Class of 2017 in-processing.
The Air Force has proposed civilian furloughs covering 22 discontinuous days from April to September, said Gail Colvin, the Academy's director of staff.
"If the furlough begins at the end of April, we know that it will be a hardship on our civilian employees," Colvin said. "It's incumbent upon supervisors to talk to those who may be furloughed to ensure they understand what it might entail for them and their families and refer them to appropriate agencies, such as the Airman and Family Readiness Center, for counseling or any other service they might require."
According to Defense Department guidance, Non-appropriated fund employees are exempt from the furloughs because their pay does not come from Congressional appropriations. Academy senior leaders do not currently project any other civilian exceptions.
However, civilians in mission-essential positions are not immune, said Col. John Linn, the Academy's Manpower and Personnel director.
The furloughs will cut approximately $8 million from the Academy's budget for civilian salaries, said Lt. Col. Frank Verdugo, the Financial Management director and comptroller here.
The Academy has postured itself since mid-January to reduce spending through cutting non-mission-essential travel and supplies and instituting a civilian hiring freeze, Verdugo said.
Dean of Faculty personnel will schedule civilian instructors' furlough days around the academic calendar to keep graduation on schedule for May 29.
Cuts to other Air Force operations will affect Graduation Week activities, however. The Thunderbirds Air Force Demonstration Squadron canceled its 2013 season when sequestration took effect, said Wendy Varhegyi, chief of the Air Force Public Affairs Office's Engagement Division, in a statement Monday to The Sun News.
The cancellations would include flyovers at the graduation parade and graduation ceremony, said Sue Christensen, the institutional plans and events specialist for the Strategic Plans and Programs, Requirements, Assessments and Analyses Directorate. No information is currently available on whether funding cuts would affect planning, setup or execution of Graduation Week activities.
Academy military construction projects that were paid for in previous fiscal years, such as the Center for Character and Leadership Development, will continue, said Carlos Cruz-Gonzalez, the Academy's director of installations, in a Feb. 8 Academy Spirit article.
Other Air Force-wide cuts may also affect Academy personnel: In a speech at the Air Force Association's Air Warfare Symposium and Technology Expo Feb. 22, Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley said sequestration will affect Airmen's professional development due to freezes on non-mission-essential travel.
"(It could) deny the promotions of Airmen who rely on that training as part of their preparation for higher rank," Donley said. "It could lead to a loss of certification for Airmen in technical specialties that require regular training such as firefighters or explosive ordnance disposal specialists."
The Air Force will cancel 200,000 flying hours this year as a result of sequestration, which would include training and any other flying not required to support combatant commanders' requirements, said Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III.
"Roughly two-thirds of our active-duty combat Air Force units will cancel home-station training ... and will drop below acceptable readiness levels by mid-May," Welsh said. "Most will be completely non-mission-capable by July."
Air Combat Command will close the Nevada and Utah test and training ranges and cancel exercises associated with those ranges, according to ACC's website. Red Flag, the Air Force's premiere air-to-air training exercise, takes place over the Nevada TTR.
Statewide, approximately 12,000 Defense Department employees will be affected by furloughs, according to fact sheets published by the White House Feb. 22.
Department of Veterans Affairs programs, including disability payments, will not be affected. However, the Labor Department's Veterans Transition Assistance Program will have to reduce operations, as Labor Department programs are not exempt from sequestration. Colorado's national parks could also see cuts to services.
Donley condemned the inaction that has allowed the sequestration to take effect.
"During (more than) three decades now in Washington, I don't believe I've ever witnessed a budget process that is as dysfunctional as the one we're experiencing today," he said.
Sequestration came about as part of a deal in August 2011 to raise the U.S. debt ceiling. The Budget Control Act of 2011 established a Jan. 2, 2013, deadline for Congress and the president to enact $1.2 trillion in deficit-reduction measures between 2013 and 2022, or else automatic across-the-board cuts would take effect. Congress passed a bill Dec. 31, 2012, that moved the deadline to March 1.
The cuts affect discretionary spending, which makes up about 40 percent of the overall U.S. budget. Mandatory spending, which includes Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and some tax credits, comprises the remaining 60 percent.