ARNOLD AFB — The effects of the federal sequester are hitting home at the Arnold Engineering Development Complex (AEDC).
On Friday afternoon, a message from AEDC Commander Col. Raymond G. Toth was posted on the base’s sequester website, <www.arnold.af.mil/sequestration>, updating the workforce about the impending budget cuts.
Sequestration went into effect on March 1 after federal legislators failed to come to an agreement to reduce the nation’s deficit. The sequester — which was initially intended to motivate Congress to strike a deal — calls for deep, across-the-board cuts to federal funding totaling $1.2 trillion over the next decade, split evenly between defense and nondefense spending.
The cuts to AEDC’s funding, according to Toth, amount to a 9.9 percent reduction in research, development test and evaluation accounts in addition to slashing the operations and management account by 29 percent from the base’s baseline for the 2013 fiscal year.
“What this really means is with only six months remaining in the fiscal year, I must take significant and immediate actions to live within the remaining budget and continue the test mission,” Toth’s message states. “…These reductions will indeed impact the way we do business and the high standards we maintain. However, we are making focused decisions to ensure we continue our test mission as long as possible.”
The commander further stated that he has been meeting with Steve Pearson, general manager of Aerospace Testing Alliance (ATA), the AEDC contractor, to limit the impact on the base’s civilian employees, who comprise the overwhelming majority of the workforce there. Military personnel have been exempted from furloughs and other cost-cutting measures.
“Unfortunately, I anticipate ATA may be forced to release some employees in the coming weeks,” Toth said.
Messages left for ATA public affairs director Kathy Gattis seeking comment on what ATA employees can expect as the cuts are implemented were not immediately returned.
In his message, Toth acknowledges that accepting the upcoming changes may be difficult for some at AEDC, and encouraged team members to look after one another during the adjustment phase.
“This is where I need your help. As lives are impacted by these decisions, please watch each other’s backs and be good wingmen,” the commander wrote. “There may be times where maintaining focus on the task at hand will be difficult and could put people at risk of injury. Also, watch for signs of people not coping well and help us get them the help they need through the Employee Assistance Programs or other helping agencies in the local communities.”
Toth was not the only Air Force official to speak out this week about the harsh impacts the sequester is having on operations and personnel.
In an editorial this week, Gen. Janet C. Wolfenbarger, Commander, Air Force Materiel Command, said, “The budget reductions will cut into my ability to maintain these bases where my people live and work, forcing my air base wing commanders to make tough calls on what to repair. Only true emergency repairs will be accomplished… Simply put, the impacts of sequestration are severe — to our mission, our people, and our bases and local communities.”
Both Toth and Wolfenbarger pointed out that the effects of the federal funding cuts will extend beyond bases and into the surrounding communities.
“This also impacts the communities surrounding our bases,” the general wrote. “Less money in the pockets of our civilians means less money to spend at the local grocery store, restaurant or movie theater. Less money will go to local taxes that pay for roads, schools and infrastructure.”
—By ANDREA AGARDY (Andrea Agardy is a Staff Writer for the Tullahoma News. She can be reached by email at email@example.com.)