Sequester's impacts to Nev. military unknown

Published Caption: Jim Grant / Nevada Appeal

Published Caption: Jim Grant / Nevada Appeal

Two Northern Nevada communities that rely on military operations could severely feel the effects of reduced federal government spending because of sequestration.Officials from both Fallon, whose economy relies on the naval air station southeast of town, and Carson City, headquarters for the Nevada Military Department, expressed reservation on the impact of the military cuts set forth by sequestration.Mandated by a 2011 deficit reduction law, sequestration requires the cutting of $85 billion — about $46 billion applied the Department of Defense. Since Congress and the administration were unable to work out a deal on Friday, the sequestration went into effect, although the ramifications may not be known for at least a month.“I have a concern,” said Churchill County Manager Eleanor Lockwood. “I don't know what the impacts will do, when the impacts will occur.”Lockwood, like other appointed and elected officials in counties served by the armed forces, is especially guarded when discussing the potential impact of sequestration on the military.Before leaving office this week, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said as many as 800,000 government employees could be furloughed through the end of the federal fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. He said DOD civilian employees could lose as much as 20 percent of their salaries. Active duty military personnel would not see their pay affected by sequestration. According to the DOD, civilians would begin their furlough days in April after they receive a 30-day notice notifying them of their changed pay status. Upward to 900 federal employees at NS Fallon could be affected.The Army, which includes the Nevada Army National Guard and Hawthorne Army Depot, stands to lose upward to $1.2 million according to a federal report. Upward to 140 civilian employees for the Nevada Military Department may be furloughed, thus representing a loss in salary between $650,000-$750,000. The loss to the local economy could be twice that amount according to a formula local governments use to gauge spending.Carson City Mayor Robert Crowell said the National Guard is a big part of the community.“Any degradation of service would be harmful to the guardsmen in our community and to our economy,” he said.Training for both the Navy and National Guard will have fewer dollars because of sequestration. Funding for Air Force operations, which would occur at Nellis and Creech Air Force bases in Southern Nevada and the Nevada Air National Guard in Reno, is targeted for about a $2 million loss.Lt. Aaron Kakiel, public affairs officer for the U.S. Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) in San Diego, previously reported the Navy is still waiting for guidance on future training and operations regarding the aircraft carriers and their air wings. Kakiel, though, said sequestration would impact Navy training in the third and fourth quarters since money has already been allotted for the first two quarters of the fiscal year.Funding for Army operations in Nevada will also take a chunk out of the economy and unit readiness in Carson City, but the DOD has not released a specific figure. Col. Felix Castagnola, U.S. Property and Fiscal Officer, said it's difficult to discuss an exact amount until the federal government releases specific figures.“Not knowing how long sequestration is going to last, future training budgets are uncertain,” Castagnola said. “As a result, we will prioritize and maximize all training opportunities so that critical skills can still be maintained as best possible.”Castagnola, who has served in the military for more than 33 years, said he expects proportional cuts relative to the service sizes in both the Nevada Army and Air Guard.“Cutting 10 percent of aircraft maintenance can have a more debilitating affect than cutting 10 percent of wheeled vehicle maintenance,” he said. “We'll mitigate the cuts as best we can, so we can respond to any federal, domestic, or state mission as requested.”Castagnola, however, said any units training for overseas deployment now or in the next one to two years will not be affected by the sequestered cuts.“If it occurs it will obviously effect readiness, but at this point in time we really don't have true visibility,” he said.The DOD also stated training will be curtailed during the third and fourth quarters since money was allocated for the first half of the fiscal year.Although curtailing the number of Carrier Strike Groups may have minimal consequence, Navy officials said it could be devastating near the end of the year.In early February, for example, DOD indefinitely delayed the deployment of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman and guided-missile cruiser USS Gettysburg. In a recent memo, Adm. John Greenert, chief of Naval Operations, looked at the impact that would be caused by sequestration.For example, additional cuts caused by sequestration would include shutting down four of nine carrier air wings in March; furlough civilians for 22 work days; cancel Blue Angels shows; delay the deployments of the aircraft carriers Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower; and two strike groups, the Nimitz and George H.W. Bush, would not be ready for their fiscal year 2013 deployments.The Navy is also reducing the number of carrier strike groups in the Middle East from two to one. Since Naval Strike Air Warfare Center at NAS Fallon trains air wing pilots and their crews, the air station may see significant cuts, which could also impact Churchill County. Although Navy officials did not have specific details, the Lahontan Valley News examined the impact based on annual county reports and previous DOD and White House studies.According to Lahontan Valley News analysis, “The typical federal or GS worker averages $45,000 in pay, and over a seventh-month period, each employee may be required to take 22 furlough days. The combined salary during this time amounts to $23.62 million, but if sequestration results in a 20-percent reduction in pay, then the loss to the area economy is $4.7 million; a 10 percent cut, though, causes a $2.3 million hit.”That monetary loss could range between $5.75 million to $11.75 million depending on the final cuts. With each air wing being delayed or canceled to Fallon for training, Churchill County officials estimated the economy could take a $200,000-$250,000 hit.“Though I remain hopeful that federal leaders in Washington can come to the table to find a solution to avoid sequestration, I want my fellow Nevadans to know that I will do everything I can to mitigate the potential effects of sequestration on our state,” Gov. Brian Sandoval said Thursday.“Should sequestration go into effect, we must deal with the real world impacts of the cuts and guide Nevada through this period. Unlike elected officials in Washington, we must take swift action to mitigate the extensive consequences. My administration started planning for sequestration last summer, knowing we may need a contingency plan should it go into effect.”Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., addressed his feelings on Wednesday with sequestration.“As the only member of the Nevada delegation to vote against sequestration, I opposed President Obama's cuts from the very beginning,” Heller said. “Instead, I urged the President, Democrats and Republicans to work together and find a long-term solution. The men and women of our Armed Forces continue to put themselves in harm's way, and it is Congress's responsibility to ensure their safety and security. Both President Obama and Members of Congress should spend less time pointing fingers and more time focused on finding a path forward.” Congressman Mark Amodei, R-Nev., said he's frustrated with sequestration.“We passed two bills last year — HR 5652 and HR 6684 — that would eliminate the FY 2013 sequester and reduce the deficit by $237 billion,” he said in a press release. “They are notable in that they offered savings to accomplish the fiscal reductions while not creating catastrophic and sudden cuts to shock all concerned, as well as the local and national economies.” Additionally, Amodei said the delay in addressing sequestration is nothing more than a slap in the face to the middle class.Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said it's not too late to avoid the cuts.“Democrats have a balanced proposal to remove the threat of the sequester. Our proposal would reduce the deficit by making smart spending cuts,” he said Thursday. “It would also close wasteful tax loopholes that allow companies that outsource jobs to China or India to claim tax deductions for doing so. Our plan would stop wasteful subsidies to farmers, some of whom don't even farm anymore. And it would ask the wealthiest among us — those making millions each year — to pay just a little more to help reduce the deficit.”


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