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Shutdown Forces 1,500 MacDill Furloughs

Bobbie O'Brien
WUSF Public Media

Here’s the breakdown of civilian defense workers furloughed from commands at MacDill Air Force Base: 95 percent of the civilians working at U.S. Special Operations Command; 33 percent of U.S. Central Command civilian workers; and about 30 percent of civilians with MacDill Air Force Base and the 6th Air Mobility Wing command.

In all, more than 1,500 civilian defense workers at MacDill are without a paycheck due to the federal government shutdown.

MacDill base commander Col. Scott DeThomas said most of the civilian workers have already had to take six unpaid workdays because of sequestration.

“These civilians have been going through this since 1 March (2013),” DeThomas said adding that the shutdown is even more unnerving because it’s open-ended. “Think about that. Think about the impact of not knowing how many days of furlough, how much pay you may or may not lose.”

DeThomas said the furloughed civilians will only receive a half-paycheck next week and then that’s it. It will mean a cumulative loss of $400,000 a day in salaries.

“That’s going to have an impact on mortgages, credit cards, car bills, all those things that we take for granted some times,” DeThomas said. “What I’ll ask, is for our financial community to be proactive in reaching out to those folks.”

The base commander already has reached out to more than 30 local bank executives to ask they be flexible with the civilian defense workers especially because a bad credit report can directly affect security clearances for defense workers.

“Most of us carry security clearances. Security clearances are the difference between being qualified for a job and a lot of times not being qualified,” DeThomas said. “If you lose your security clearance, I can release you from that job. That’s critically important.”

Credit Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media
WUSF Public Media
Traffic at MacDill Air Force Base's main gate is a lot lighter since 1,500 civilian workers were furloughed.

A couple of banks have set up loan procedures, so called “check-loans”, for furloughed civilian defense workers so they can receive the dollar amount their pay should have been.

And furloughed workers are not restricted from taking outside employment if they can find it.  But DeThomas said they should notify their supervisor.

While some folks call the back-and-forth in Washington government dysfunction, the MacDill Base Commander called it democracy.

“Frustration? Of course we want to be able to do everything in our power to make the mission go. We want to never allow folks to be furloughed, I got that,” DeThomas said Wednesday at a news conference outside the base gates. “But the reality is: what you’re seeing play out in the political realm is of value to democracy. And I’m fairly certain, a lot folks around the world – yeah they might throw stones – but they’d love to have a piece of that.”

Service members in uniform are still getting their paychecks, but many will have to work longer hours to fill in for the civilians who are now on furlough.

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