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Furloughs at Kirtland take effect this week

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Nearly 2,100 civilian employees at Kirtland Air Force Base will endure a 20 percent cut in pay over the next 11 weeks, base officials said Monday.

The cut will come in the form of a furlough day – one unpaid day off each week, through September. It starts this week, base officials said.

The reduction will affect scientists, secretaries and other civilians employed by the Department of Defense. The base commissary will be closed on Mondays as a result of the cuts.

The reductions are a result of “sequestration,” or automatic budget cuts mandated by Congress.

“It seems to me that civilian employees of the Department of Defense are paying a higher economic price than the rest of us as citizens of America,” said Sherman McCorkle, founder of the Kirtland Partnership Committee. “That’s a very unfair approach.”

Kirtland spokeswoman Marie Vanover said the base’s cuts will amount to an $8 million reduction in local payroll.

The furlough days will take place through the end of the federal fiscal year, Sept. 30. It isn’t clear whether furloughs will continue into the next budget year.

“We would not be able to speculate on that,” Vanover said. “That is a decision that will be made by the Department of Defense.”

McCorkle said, “it’s fascinating that individually almost every member of Congress says they’re opposed to sequestration, yet collectively there’s no action.”

The budget reductions were triggered automatically when Congress failed to agree on a deficit-cutting plan.

The furloughs affect Department of Defense civilian employees, but not workers employed by the Department of Energy, Sandia National Laboratories or active-duty military personnel , said John Cochran, a spokesman for Kirtland.

Across the entire Department of Defense, such furloughs are expected to save the Pentagon up to $40 billion this fiscal year.

In addition to Kirtland, perhaps 4,000 other workers at New Mexico military installations may face cuts. In May, when the Department of Defense announced the furlough plans, spokespeople said:

McCorkle said the cuts will have a personal effect on Albuquerque residents.

“It’s not just an economic impact to the city in an abstract way,” he said. “It’s our neighbor getting a 20 percent salary reduction.”

The Kirtland Partnership Committee is a nonprofit group committed to supporting and growing the Air Force base.

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