Commander: Shutdown effect on MacDill will be severe
A U.S. airman guides a Miami-Dade Urban Search and Rescue truck onto a C-17 Globemaster III at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., on February 22, 2013.
The Tampa (Fla.) Tribune
TAMPA, Fla. — While no one knows how long the shutdown of the federal government will last, Air Force Col. Scott DeThomas, commander of MacDill Air Force Base, said two things are certain. The effect locally will be severe and get worse the longer the shutdown goes on.
Standing outside MacDill’s main gate to address the media Wednesday morning, DeThomas said more than 1,500 civilians who work at the base were told to go home Tuesday, with no idea of when they would return. That will amount to a cumulative loss of about $400,000 in pay every day, with a strong ripple effect on the local economy that depends on the base and the people who work there.
“That’s a pretty incredible number on the backs of our civilian airmen,” DeThomas said.
And there may be more furloughs down the road if the shutdown drags on, he said. DeThomas and other base leaders are reviewing the list of civilians to see if more employees will be forced to take unpaid time off.
“The list will be reviewed every week until we get this resolved,” he said,
While military personnel will still be paid, they and their families will suffer from the shutdown as well, DeThomas said.
“One of the downfalls is that every time something like this happens, we find ways to get through it, sometimes on the backs of airmen who have to work longer hours making up for the great airmen who aren’t here today,” he said.
Another burden on the military personnel and their famiilies is the shuttering of the base commissary, DeThomas said.
“The average grocery bill at our commissary is 30 percent less” than off base, said DeThomas. “Thirty percent less is a lot of money for folks struggling to make ends meet, and that will have a big impact across the base and the community.”
The main Air Force missions at MacDill, flying KC-135 Stratotanker aerial refueling jets, will still go on “in support of warfighters,” said DeThomas. But the longer the shutdown, the more certain training may be affected, DeThomas said.
Officials from U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command said it was too early to determine exactly how the shutdowns will affect them.