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Fort Sill Civilian Workers Face Furlough

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LAWTON Okla_ In just one week, $85 billion in federal spending cuts could go into effect. Lawton, like many other cities in states across the nation, will be affected if the sequester does occur.

Through an email to 7News, Fort Sill officials said if it does, some 2,600 post civilian workers face possible furlough.

They say each employee would lose their hourly wage for a day's work for a potential total of 22 days, spread out over 22 weeks. Those furloughs would begin sometime in mid-April. Major General Mark McDonald is expected to hold town hall meetings next week, to address concerns with the entire civilian work force.

7News Reporter Jonathan Rozelle reached out to several businesses that work with our local military installations. Many are not willing to talk about the situation, because no one is quite sure how sequestration will play out. However, the Lawton Economic Development Corporation talked with 7News to help the community better understand how Lawton's economy may be affected.

When it comes to the potential furloughs because of the spending cuts, Barry Albrecht, CEO of Lawton's Economic Development Corporation, said it's not just focused on the 2,600 civilian workers on post.

"We're talking other federal agencies that are going to be impacted," Albrecht said.

A possibility of a furlough of one day a week for 22 weeks for transportation security administrators would mean longer lines at airport security, federal agents forced off the job, and about 70,000 preschoolers from the Head Start program.

"Try to imagine taking 20% of your pay for the next 23 weeks out," Albrecht said. "That's not going to be spent on the economy."

He said automatic government cuts is one reason city leaders and the business community came up with the LEDC.

"They wanted to create this aggressive organization to go out and support Fort Sill," Albrecht said, "But look at new jobs and new industries, so we can become less dependent on those defense jobs."

That's helped pave the way for the 82nd Street Retail Project and others like it going on around town.

"As you can see in history, our defense budgets roll," Albrecht said. "They go up, and they go down. No city wants to be totally independent on one particular industry. It's a healthy economy and a healthy city, so we can diversify in different industry basis."

Albrecht also mentioned the nation went through dynamic defense cuts after the end of the Vietnam War. He doesn't expect these cuts to be as severe, but said the nation should brace itself.

Altus Air Force Base is one of those military installations bracing for the potential devastating impact. If sequestration does go into effect on March 1st, officials said mobility training could be severely impacted, and advanced pilot and instructor training will be cut back. They also say flight training will be expected to stand down at the end of the summer.

A little more than 1,000 civilian employees at Altus Air Force Base could be furloughed. Officials say they have already taken actions to help offset the effects of the cuts. Those include an Air Force-wide temporary hiring freeze and limits on non-mission critical expenses like temporary duty assignments and visits that are not mission-critical.

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