Government shutdown creates uncertainty for Delaware locals
Published: Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 02:10
BY KELLY FLYNN
Managing News Editor
Last Tuesday, approximately 500 government employees reported to work at Dover Air Force base only to be handed a letter of furlough or temporary unpaid leave. The 500 men and women signed their letters and took a few hours to transfer their duties to their military counterparts before leaving the base not knowing when they might return.
While Congress continues to debate federal spending in Washington, individuals relying on government funding locally are feeling the effects of the standstill and wondering when the shutdown might end. First Lt. Tony Richardson, base spokesperson, said since Tuesday, a mood of uncertainty has permeated the base.
While airmen have not been affected, Dover Air Force Base employs 999 government civilians who serve various functions throughout the base such as working on flight lines and serving as nutrition experts, Richardson said.
“They represent the continuity of the base for people who move,” Richardson said.
Five hundred are furloughed, but the remaining employees are being funded by a transportation working capital fund, which Richardson predicts could run out within a week. He said the base’s mission is to move cargo, and whether the employed civilians work directly or indirectly with the cargo, the missing employees have a negative impact on the base’s overall ability to complete its mission.
He said many of the furloughed employees have years of experience and expertise that makes those individuals better equipped than their military counterparts who have had to fill in at unfamiliar positions.
“It’d be really nice to have our civilian teammates, but we understand,” Richardson said. “It doesn’t make it a pill that’s easier to swallow.”
Currently, the health and wellness center, commissary and library remain closed at the base as a result of the government shutdown. Richardson said self-sustaining facilities such as the flower shop and base theater remain open because they are able to generate their own revenue.
Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge located in Smyrna, Del. has also sent the majority of employees home, said Bruce Decker, acting chief at Bombay Hook’s Division of Communication.