Sequestration-forced furlough days will end next week for civilian employees at Vandenberg Air Force Base.
The welcome news was relayed this week by U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, who said furlough days would be reduced from 11 to six, according to Staff Sgt. Erica Picariello, a 30th Space Wing spokeswoman.
Furloughs, which refer to mandatory time off without pay, began in July and have affected 1,137 civil service employees at Vandenberg.
Hagel said efforts by defense officials and Congress helped to identify savings that lessened furloughs.
Instead of enduring unpaid days off for the original 11 consecutive weeks, employees will experience their last furlough day for this fiscal year by the end of next week.
Vandenberg officials are especially grateful to see the end of a cost-cutting measure that has affected all aspects of the base’s general mission.
U.S. military and defense operations in particular took the brunt of hits from sequestration, a series of federal spending cuts that took effect in March 1 in accordance with a 2011 budget agreement between President Barack Obama and Congress.
"The sequestration-induced FY13 budget has created a very trying time for all of us, but more so for our dedicated civilian workforce," 30th Space Wing Vice commander Col. Brent McArthur said in a statement. “Needless to say, the sacrifices made by our dedicated employees are a testament to their great character and commitment to our mission.”
A recent survey of how furloughs have affected units across Vandenberg presented troubling results.
"What the units reported back to us varied from employees expressing frustration and attempting to cope with a drop in efficiency, contracts worth millions of dollars being de-scoped, to reduced range launch availability,” said Ron Cortopassi, 30th Space Wing executive director.
Whether mandatory furloughs will return in the 2014 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, remains to be seen.
The secretary of defense’s announcement this week also included a cautionary tone and warning that deeper cuts could be coming next year if Congress doesn’t change the Budget Control Act — which would force an additional $52 billion cut to the U.S. Department of Defense.