NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — The onset of sequestration and civilian furloughs has shifted activities across the base as organizations take steps to maintain operational readiness with tighter budgets and without their civilian workforce one day a week.
Due to the numerous missions being carried out by different squadrons on the installation, civilian furlough days and other effects of sequestration are having varying impacts base-wide. For one of those organizations, the 99th Logistics Readiness Squadron, the challenges are real.
“The LRS is a very diverse organization that provides customer service support for Nellis and Creech AFBs,” said 1st Lt. Kevin Limani, 99th LRS Fuels Management Flight commander. “By condensing a five day work week into four days for a tenth of our workforce, the efficiency of our labor will likely be hampered.”
The mission of the 99th LRS is to provide responsive logistics support to every customer while maintaining a high state of combat readiness. The squadron provides services in traffic management, fuels distribution, vehicle maintenance and government vehicle use among others.
The squadron’s vehicle management flight is tasked with being the source of maintenance operations for the 2,400 vehicles on base, the third largest vehicle fleet in the Air Force.
“Typically, the vehicle management flight boasts a vehicle in commission rate [more than] 90 percent, but with a workforce consisting of 20 percent civilians, the vehicle in commission rate has already been reduced by three percentage points,” Limani said.
The LRS also houses the busiest traffic management office in Air Combat Command. In addition to 3,000 household good shipments annually, the section is charged with managing inbound and outbound commercial cargo shipments for the installation.
The squadron also provides and maintains a sizeable fleet of government vehicles that can be checked out by active duty, Department of Defense civilians and contractors for official mission requirements as part of its U-Drive It program. According to Limani, it is imperative that customers use the UDI fleet according to the Official Use Letter in order to avoid costly maintenance that occupies already-reduced man hours.
The LRS isn’t the only organization re-evaluating their methods.
“Being a leader can be a test all by itself, however, add sequestration into the equation and you now a have huge challenge on your hands,” said Capt. Melissa-Rene Goodwin, 99th Force Support Squadron Military Personnel Flight chief.
FSS is Nellis AFB’s largest squadron and oversees military and civilian personnel support, education services, enlisted professional education, and family support along with lodging, food services, club management, laundry, mortuary affairs, recreational activities and other services for both Nellis and Creech AFBs.
“Each organization has made adjustments to staffing and/or hours of operations in order to balance the effects of manpower cuts,” Goodwin said.
According to Goodwin, the education center reduced their hours to Monday to Thursday from 9 a.m.-3 p.m., and the base library hours are now Monday to Friday from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. All other sections’ hours of operation will remain the same.
“No matter what the budget constraints may be, our mission remains the same, “deliver outstanding customer service and products,” Goodwin said. “Our goal is to make the effects of sequestration as minimal as possible to our customers.”
Among other squadrons feeling the heat is the 99th Communications Squadron, which operates and maintains the base computer networks, wired and wireless telecommunications systems and networks, airfield and radar systems and provides postal services.
According to Senior Master Sgt. Isaac Harris, 99th CS Operations Flight superintendent, the civilian work force plays a critical role in daily operations.
“The gap left every week by their absence means some repeatable processes could be hindered,” Harris said. “Our civilian airfield systems maintainers support around-the-clock situation displays of air traffic data received from Federal Aviation Administration and Department of Defense long and short range radars.”
This equipment supports an estimated 204,000 civilian and military flights annually. With the equipment being needed to provide service year round, it also needs to be maintained year round.
“During the furlough, our civilian maintenance team for this equipment is only permitted to work 64 hours per two-week pay period,” Harris said. “With five [people], even with all individuals working apart from each other, there is still a gap of 80 hours where no work can be accomplished.”
In the midst of budget cuts and workforce reduction, the CS is in the process of completing one of their most daunting projects yet in the upcoming AFNet migration. The end goal of this project is to tie all stand-alone Air Force, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard computer networks into the AFNet, centralizing services such as email and data storage, significantly improving network security and standardization.
“This is a timely transition with regard to sequestration, because we anticipate this will reduce operational and training costs across the institution,” Harris said. He added that despite the challenges, the CS has remained committed to providing cutting-edge technology, along with a safer network environment for Nellis users.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced the reduction of civilian furlough days from the original 11 days to six, offering some relief to DOD civilians who faced pay cuts of up to 20 percent. Hagel admitted he is unsure about what will happen next year, but stressed that he will do everything possible to avoid more furloughs.
Editor’s Note: Capt. Melissa-Rene Goodwin, 1st Lt. Kevin Limani and Senior Master Sgt. Isaac Harris contributed to the writing of this article.