Arnold Engineering in Tullahoma, Tenn., bracing for cuts

Arnold Engineering in Tullahoma, Tenn., bracing for cuts

February 5th, 2013 by Ben Benton in Local Regional News

This is the main entrance to the Arnold Air Force base in Tullahoma, Tenn.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

Arnold Engineering Development Complex

Photo by Laura McNutt/Times Free Press.

NEAR-TERM BUDGETARY ACTIONS

In January, memos from U.S. Air Force commanders provided their subordinates a list of near-term actions to address the federal government's "uncertain budget environment ahead."

• Implement a temporary civilian hiring freeze and release current temporary and term employees with exceptions for mission-critical activities.

• Review overseas contingency operations requirements and identify potential reductions that will not impair wartime operations.

• Cancel all travel that is not mission-critical, such as conferences and staff assistance visits and training seminars.

• Curtail flying not directly related to readiness.

• Curtail or cancel ongoing and scheduled studies that are not congressionally directed or mission-critical.

• Limit supply purchases to essential fiscal 2013 consumption and stop minor purchases that are not mission-critical.

• Defer nonemergency Facility Sustainment, Restoration and Modernization projects.

• Where practical, de-obligate or incrementally fund severable service contracts that cross the fiscal year only to Oct. 31, 2013, and defer the remainder of those contracts.

Sources: U.S. Air Force Materiel Command, U.S. Department of Defense

Officials at Arnold Engineering Development Complex in Tullahoma, Tenn., and military installations around the world are preparing for a projected $1.8 billion shortfall in Air Force funding as the battle over the federal budget continues in Washington, D.C.

Actions that could begin as soon as April include a civilian hiring freeze; cancellation of nonessential travel, flying activities and studies; limitation of coming-year supply purchases; deferred sustainment, restoration and modernization projects; and to "de-obligate or incrementally fund" service contracts, according to officials.

For Arnold Air Force Base in Tullahoma, there won't be a significant loss of existing employees but there also will be no new hires. Otherwise, military officials still will be battening down the financial hatches, AEDC spokesman Jason Austin said.

"The guidance that came out [from Air Force Materiel Command] basically instructed us to let go of all our temporary employees," Austin said. "Here at Arnold, there were only two temporary employees, and one of those temporary employees had already given his two-week notice."

Austin said the other temporary employee's position was converted to a permanent post before the announcement of new guidelines so it, too, avoided the sequestration snare.

"We've implemented a hiring freeze, so we won't be doing any more hiring in the government-civilian side in the near term," he said. Arnold will honor employment offers made before this month's announcements about the budget, he said.

9 percent cut

The Associated Press reports that sequestration would cut roughly 9 percent from the U.S. Department of Defense's budget by the end of fiscal 2013. But even if Congress and the president come to a deficit reduction agreement that avoids sequestration, it still likely will contain steep budget cuts.

The Pentagon plans to furlough hundreds of thousands of civilian employees beginning in April if a deal is not struck to avert sequestration, according to AP. Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said last week that if sequestration's budget cuts go into effect as scheduled on March 1, employees will be furloughed one day per week between April and Sept. 30, the end of fiscal year 2013. Carter said the furloughs likely would save $5 billion.

"[M]y intent is for AFMC to take immediate actions to reduce spending across all appropriations," Air Force Materiel Command Gen. Janet Wolfenbarger said earlier in January.

"[W]e still have a requirement to continue the critical missions that we execute on behalf of the Air Force," Wolfenbarger said. "Therefore, mission-critical exceptions to these actions can be approved with discretion."

Arnold is focused primarily on research, development and testing of flight and missile technologies, endeavors that U.S. Air Force Secretary Michael Donley recently said should be protected from the budget ax.

"America's Air Force is the most capable in the world, but modernization can't wait for the next up-tick in defense spending," Donley states in a Jan. 11 opinion piece published on the AOL Defense website. "Canceling programs to wait for a future generation of technology would be wasteful and, in many cases, would risk the loss of critical engineering talent."

Regardless, AEDC staff remains ready if sequestration calls for more reductions, Austin said.

"We don't know what the future looks like at this point," he said. "Our workforce throughout the last 60 years has been very flexible, so we continue to flex."