The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

October 1, 2013

100 civilians at Vance furloughed

By Jeff Mullin, Senior Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — The government shutdown sending ripples throughout the country Tuesday will have an impact locally at Vance Air Force Base.

Of 246 government civilians employed at Vance, 100 have been furloughed, said Staff Sgt. James Bolinger with the Vance Public Affairs office.

“The Vance leadership deliberately sorted through every function on base and figured out who is critical to continue flying operations,” said Bolinger.

The furloughed employees were allowed to work only four hours on Tuesday before being sent home.

Flying operations at Vance will continue as scheduled, Bolinger said.

“Anything that was set up beforehand we will keep going with,” he said. “We will keep sending pilots out the door.”

Col. Darren James, 71st Flying Training Wing commander, requested exemptions from furloughs through Air Education and Training Command “for all activities that impact the flying mission,” said Bolinger.

Active-duty members at Vance and throughout the military will continue receiving paychecks through the Pay Our Military Act passed by Congress Sunday.

“Civilian folks currently working will be paid after the shutdown comes to an end,” Bolinger said.

The situation involving the hundreds of contract employees at Vance is not quite as clear.

“Some of the contractors have been affected,” said Bolinger. “Many of the contracts here that we use, the majority of them have been given notice to proceed by AETC.”

Information still is being gathered on the affects of the shutdown on Vance’s contract functions, said Bolinger. More information is expected soon from higher headquarters.

The base clinic and pharmacy, used by many area retirees, will remain open.

Vance Child Development Center, youth programs, bowling center, library, Auto Skills Center, Arts & Crafts Center, lodging, outdoor recreation and fitness center will operate as normal during the shutdown.

The Military Personnel Flight will experience limited civilian support, while all other sections will conduct business as usual. Limited support will be available at the base Airman and Family Readiness Center.

The Vance Collocated Club will remain open during normal hours.

The base commissary was open Tuesday, but will close for the duration of the shutdown. The base exchange will remain open.

Elsewhere, Garfield County District Court Clerk Margaret Jones said her office received a notice Tuesday morning from the U.S. Department of State concerning the shut down.

The statement tells passport acceptance facilities, such as Jones’ office, they should continue to accept passport applications unless otherwise advised by the Department of State.

“In the event of a lapse in appropriations, the Department will continue passport and visa operations as well as provide critical services to U.S. citizens overseas,” the notice reads.

Processing time for passport applications will remain at four weeks or less for routine service and two weeks for expedited service. Customers planning to travel within two weeks or requiring passports to obtain foreign visas should make an appointment at the nearest passport agency.

People with questions about the impact of the shutdown on passport services can visit the Department of State’s website at travel.state.gov, or call the National Passport Information Center at (877) 487-2778 for updates to the situation.

Jones said she did not see the government shutdown having a “significant impact” on her office’s passport capabilities.

Garfield County Sheriff Jerry Niles said he was not sure how big an impact the shutdown will have on his office’s ability to process handgun licenses.

Part of the process to obtain a handgun license is a federal fingerprint and background check.

“To be honest, we don’t know if there is going to be any impact or not,” Niles said. “We’ll just have to wait and see.”



Staff Writer Cass Rains contributed to this story.