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Civilian 122nd Fighter Wing workers to be idled one day a week

Saturday, March 16, 2013 - 8:32 am

About 200 Fort Wayne-based Air National Guard workers started getting official notice this week that the federal government plans to idle them one day a week as part of the “sequester” spending cuts.

Some of the civilian technicians received letters Friday notifying them of the 22-week furlough plan, which are slated to begin in mid to late April, said Master Sgt. Darin Hubble, a spokesman for the 122nd Fighter Wing.

“They haven't all been sent out, but the first of them have started to come,” Hubble said, adding that Indiana Air Guard leaders still hope to avoid the cuts. “We are still working at a national level to change this way of thinking of having the furlough affect missions.”

Hubble said the furlough, which would shorten the work week to four days for the full-time workers, would amount to about a month of pay for each employee. That could also affect the local economy, he said.

“A month's worth of pay for 200 employees will have a trickle-down effect at grocery stores, gas stations, you name it,” Hubble said.

The proposed cuts also would eliminate some temporary workers at the Air Guard base, as well as about nine civilian workers with the local Army National Guard armory, he said.

The News-Sentinel left a message with the Army National Guard's local headquarters Friday afternoon.

Hubble also noted that the U.S. Senate is considering a separate funding bill that would eliminate the STARBASE learning program housed on the local Air National Guard base. The local STARBASE, which offers a hands-on learning experience for area students, opened last year.

Hubble pointed to “this program that came to our base a year ago, that's served 800 children” as another example of what Indiana National Guard officials view as misguided spending cuts.

Area politicians and Indiana National Guard officials fought for a year to stave off a proposed Defense Department spending plan that would have switched the 122nd from A-10 combat planes to MC-12 reconnaissance aircraft, cutting up to 150 local jobs. In January, President Obama signed a revised spending bill that avoided the cuts.

The U.S. House would need to approve the latest appropriations bill if it passes the Senate.