Yuma-area federal workers may lose millions if cuts take effect
Millions of dollars in wages for thousands of Yuma-area federal employees could be lost if sequestration becomes a reality.
Yuma Proving Ground alone could cut back its payroll for civilian employees by as much as $3.6 million if the furloughs that are being discussed as part of the deep, across-the-board government spending cuts take effect. YPG directly employs 700 civilians.
Proving ground spokesman Chuck Wullenjohn said leadership has been keeping staff informed through email.
“It's definitely on people's minds,” he said. “They're hungry for information.”
Sequestration would last 10 years and cut $1.2 trillion of government spending, half from defense. Cuts to current year spending will begin March 1 unless legislation is passed to avoid it.
For the Department of Defense overall, that means $46 billion less through the remainder of the fiscal year. About $5 billion of those savings could come though the furloughing – or unpaid leave – of about 800,000 civilian employees.
The possible furloughs would be for eight hours a week, every week, starting April 25 and lasting through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. That's generally one day's shift, although YPG already operates on four-day weeks, with workers reporting for four 10-hour shifts.
How the eight hours would be trimmed here remains to be seen. It would, though, mean a 20 percent loss of income for five months.
“That money, it turns over in the community,” Wullenjohn said.
Adjusting funding for the proving ground's contractors, which additionally employ more than 1,000 people, is also being studied. In other potential cuts, the proving ground could lose money for the maintenance and repair of facilities. The 2013 summer internship program, which gave 21 college students on-the-job work experience last year, could be eliminated.
The cuts don't affect active-duty military personnel, which are a smaller group at YPG and a large one at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma. Still, MCAS Yuma also has a significant civilian roster. Base spokeswoman Capt. Staci Reidinger said the base has about 900 civilians aside from contracted employes. And though she was unsure what the payroll impact of furloughs would be, those 900 workers typically represent about $50 million in wages.
Reidinger said MCAS Yuma is the busiest air station in the Marine Corps, and the base commanding officer planned to meet with the civilian workforce to let them know how valued their contributions are.
Civilians hold jobs from finance manager and budget analyst to flightline operations and range management, to child care and medical services.
“Everybody's job is important,” Reidinger said.
She said she wants people to know the base is trying to be efficient and thoughtful with any cuts, and that people are making the best of what may be coming.
A spokesman for another high-profile force in the Yuma area, Customs and Border Patrol, pointed to a recent speech before Senators by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
Speaking in overall terms, Napolitano told the Senate Appropriations Committee on Feb. 14 that cuts to CBP funds would increase wait times at airports, affect security between land ports of entry, slow screening and entry for travelers into the U.S., reduce overtime for frontline operations and decrease backfill hiring. Specifically, the agency would have to reduce work hours by the equivalent of more than 5,000 Border Patrol agents and more than 2,750 CBP officers.