Air Force Cutting Back Civilian Jobs

Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau, Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC & Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

Military jobs cuts are being felt in Alaska.

The Air Force has eliminated more than 250 jobs previously available to civilians at the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson near Anchorage.  Major Joseph Coslett, the base’s public affairs director, says the cuts were ordered late Wednesday as part of a national push to help meet an overall Air Force goal of more than 9,000 reductions.  However, he says that does not mean there will be that many people who will lose their current jobs.

“They identified 256 positions.  Of those, 50 had folks in those current positions.  Now what our civilian personnel office is trying to do is move those folks to other open positions on the installation,” Coslett

Coslett says the positions that will be eliminated were primarily the result of the merger of Fort Richardson and Elemendorf Air Force Base into one, joint operation.

Since the cuts announced this morning reflect specifically identified positions, Major Coslett says there are also other opportunities available for civilians to work at the base – both with Air Force and Reserve Units.

“Some medical or some operational jobs or careers haven’t been looked at yet because they directly support the war-fighting capability.  And so those are our mission partners here on JBER, and so maybe some of those folks that were identified could go that way.   But what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to exhaust every voluntary measure we can.  That way we don’t have to do any involuntary reduction in force,” Coslett said.

Alaska’s other Air Force base is also affected by the Department of Defense re-alignment and draw down. Air Force spokesman, Staff Sergeant Miguel Lara says Eielson – near Fairbanks – is also seeing civilian job losses.

“Right now, Eilson’s share of the resource management decision is at present 45 positions over the next five years.  This doesn’t directly translate into people.  Some of the positions currently designated to be cut are currently empty or will be reallocated,” Lara said.

Lara says it’s unclear exactly how many people will actually be laid off.  He says a civilian hiring freeze remains in place, as the base pursues voluntary cut backs to try to avoid further mandated reductions.

Congressman Don Young is calling the job cuts “dead wrong.”  He says Alaska’s Congressional delegation is writing a letter stating concerns to Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz and Air Force Secretary Michael Donley.

“What we have to try to do is try to, and we have a delegation letter which we’re sending over if we ever get the Senators to agree on anything, we’re going to have a letter that says no this is wrong for the military mission.  And of course it does affect jobs but it isn’t just the jobs, it’s the military mission,” Young said.

Young says he’s concerned this could be a harbinger of what’s to come some day when there’s another round of BRAC or Base Realignment and Closure, when military installations around the country are examined for cuts.

“That’s the next danger we have in Alaska, if this attitude keeps going.  And I will tell you if it gets to the point where I think we’re not providing the appropriate training and equipment for my
soldiers I won’t support any military.  Because that’s not fair to any troops in the military, to have an inadequately trained soldier, male or female, inadequately equipped soldier, that’s immoral for this Congress to send them possibly into combat,” Young said.

There’s no indication from the Obama Administration that a round of BRAC is coming down the pike.  Young says regardless, the delegation must constantly promote Alaska as a huge training ground that’s strategically located at the top of the world and defend it from cuts to the military.

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lcasey (at) alaskapublic (dot) org | About Libby

Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

ddonaldson (at) alaskapublic (dot) org | 907.586.6948 | About Dave

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