Maxwell AFB feeling money crunch of budget cuts

Maxwell Air Force Base is starting to feel the effects of a money crunch as Washington discusses how to best implement budget cuts.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said budget legislation passed earlier this month asks for a $350 billion reduction in defense spending over 10 years, as reported by the American Forces Press Service.

Since May, the Air Force has had civilian hiring restrictions in place.

"It's a climate of uncertainty," said Don Comstock, chief of civilian personnel at Maxwell. "When we're hit with something like this, we look at every possible way to avoid adversely impacting our employees."

Another recent budget cut-related action, unrelated to civilian hiring controls, was the closure last month of the Air and Space Basic Course.

As previously reported in the Dispatch, the closure has an estimated cost savings of about $12 million annually.

"Unfortunately, the austere budget environment is forcing difficult choices, and the termination of ASBC will be one of many choices the Air Force will now have to make," Lt. Gen. Allen Peck, commander of Air University, said during the last ASBC graduation July 22.

With the closure of ASBC comes an impact on some civilian employees.

Accompanying the ASBC closure, the curriculum of Squadron Officer School is being reworked and the school will be lengthened from five to eight weeks. However, there will be a period with no SOS students, meaning an overall fewer number of students will be housed in lodging on base this autumn. Therefore, lodging employees will have their workload and work hours, decreased.

"Lodging is a business," said Maj. Natalie Jolly, 42nd Force Support Squadron commander. "When our customer base changes, we flex to accommodate that."
"That was a cutback of 600 customers for the next semester," said Amanda Gomer, non-appropriated funds, or NAF, human resources officer. "That drops the lodging occupancy rate."

This change affects lodging's NAF flex employees, whose schedules vary from zero to 40 hours a week, and regular employees, who are guaranteed at least 20 hours a week.

"Regular part-time employees have been reduced to guaranteed minimum hours," Gomer said. "The flex employees were taken off the schedule until the beginning of 2012." When SOS resumes in January, the workload will increase, and the 65-75 flex employees will be asked to return as the mission supports.

In the meantime, the NAF Human Resource Office can help them find other positions on base and assist with unemployment claim applications, she said.

With the reduction in students needing lodging, more rooms are available for authorized visitors to the base, and may serve as a safe haven for evacuees from other bases during hurricane season, Jolly said.

At this time, no other plans are under way to reduce hours for employees at other facilities or to cut positions, she said.

Procedures are in place to protect employees, and Jolly encourages civilians to stay calm. "We are going to take care of them to the best of our abilities within the legal and fiscal constraints of the current environment," she said.

INFORMATION SOURCE: Kelly Deichert/Air University Public Affairs