Military commanders bracing for furlough impact

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Thousands of civilian workers at area military bases have received furlough notices. It's likely they'll be facing 11 days off without pay, beginning July 8. And it's all because of the federal government's  sequestration.

Keesler AFB in Biloxi was recently named the best Air Force installation in the country. Its commander now faces the challenge of maintaining that level of excellence, with nearly 1400 civilian furloughs. General Bradley Spacy vows the pending cutbacks will not impact the mission.

"First of all, the civilians that are furloughed, they're going to work very hard while they're at work to help us mitigate the impact. But then also, the uniform wearing personnel who aren't furloughed and are here every day will help pick up the slack," said Gen. Spacy.

At Gulfport's Seabee Base, areas like training might be affected, with fewer instructors working for instance. But the commander says the overall impact should be minimal.  He says civilian workers are a critical part of the Seabee team.

"They do a great job day in, day out. They're very skilled. Very experienced people. I don't want to see them get furloughed. But if we have to do this, I'll do the best I can to minimize the impact operationally to the command. And to those folks that are involved," said NMCB Commander, Captain Rick Burgess.

Obviously, the economic impact of the furloughs goes beyond cutbacks in individual paychecks. Owners of small businesses that rely on military customers say they also will likely feel the pinch. With less discretionary income, furloughed workers will likely be more cautious with their spending.

"There's things you don't have to have, that if you're having to cut your income that much, that can affect. You know, a new sofa is not always a necessity. It might be something we want. But eating is," said furniture salesperson, Robin Lamey, with Luckie's Furniture store in Biloxi, near the Keesler gate.

The federal furloughs are slated to begin July 8th. Furlough notices have already been sent out, since the government is required to give the workers 30 days notice.

There are also hundreds of other federal employees facing furloughs who work at Stennis Space Center in Hancock County and Ingalls Shipbuilding in Jackson County.

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