For the first time in 17 years, the federal government has shutdown. And, as a result, National Forests across the country are closed, workers are furloughed, and government benefit programs that help needy families are being shuttered. Public Radio East’s Jared Brumbaugh reports on the impact of the government shutdown on military bases in eastern North Carolina.
During a shutdown of the federal government, only operations and activities deemed essential to safety, protection of human life and national security are authorized. Programs and services deemed “non-essential” are subject to closure. Due to the strong military presence in eastern North Carolina, thousands of people are feeling the sting from the shutdown. At the largest Marine Corp Base on the East Coast, Camp Lejeune, nearly 800 workers found out this week that they were being furloughed. Camp Lejeune Communications Director Nat Fahy says base officials were able to warn workers of the furloughs well in advance of the government shutdown.
“We understand that this is going to mean a financial hit for a lot of these folks, but they are a valued member of our base community and our top priority again is to ensure that they understand this process, and understand it early, and understand it when we know it.”
The most significant impact stems from the closure of the Commissary. During the government shutdown, Fahy says it’s important for the base population to know what services will remain open.
“Those are the security and emergency services, base schools will continue to remain open, the child development centers and afterschool care will continue to remain open, medical services as well. So there are a number of things that are important to our base population that will continue to remain open largely because we have uniformed personnel to back them up or they are considered part of the accepted list in according to the Department of Defense standards.”
Fahy says active duty military at Camp Lejeune will be paid. However, it’s still unclear whether civilian employees that are furloughed will be paid retroactively.
Seymour Johnson Air Force Base’s 4th Fighter Wing in Goldsboro is feeling the pinch from the government shutdown. According to 4th Fighter Wing Vice Commander Col. Evan Pettus, the absence of an approved budget is extremely disruptive to base operations. In a written statement to Public Radio East, he said a reduction in programs and services will come as a result of the government shutdown. About 200 people- or 50 percent of 4th Fighter Wing civilian personnel have been furloughed. Formal Training Unit squadrons, which train all new F-15 E aircrew for Combat Air Forces, will cease flying. And, the commissary is closed indefinitely. At this time, it’s not yet known if base support services will close. Pettus says the exact number of civilians furloughed at Seymour Johnson has not been determined.
Marine Corp Air Station New River is also coping with the impacts of the Government shutdown. The ID Card Center, Traffic Court, and Installation Personnel Administration Center are some of the programs and services that will run on a reduced schedule. Other non-essential operations have been closed, according to Public Affairs Officer 1st Lt. Sarah Burns.
“MCCS facilities, Marine Corp Community Services facilities will also be closed during the furlough. These include programs such as personal and professional development office, the library, the education center.”
Outdoor Recreation, Career Assistance, and the Commissary will remain closed until the government starts back up again. Burns says about 260 workers have been furloughed at New River.
More than a dozen programs and services have been closed until further notice at Marine Corp Air Station Cherry Point, including Transitional Assistance, the Community Counseling Center and the Commissary. We reached out to Cherry Point Public Affairs on Tuesday, but they declined to our request for an interview. According to a press release, Cherry Point’s Marine Corps Community Services programs will operate with a reduced workforce, and some of the departments may be closed. No estimate was given on how many workers were furloughed.
To see a complete list of impacted base programs and services for Camp Lejeune, New River, Seymour Johnson and Cherry Point, go to publicradioeast.org, and click on this story. For Public Radio East, I’m Jared Brumbaugh.