Furloughs at Air Base in Niagara Falls

10:44 PM, Oct 2, 2013   |    comments
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NIAGARA, N.Y. -- The federal government's shutdown has left many people in Western New York without work.

The New York National Guard furloughed 1,500 civilian technicians around the state, and about 430 of them were from Niagara Falls.

Yesterday, Walt Gordon, the acting wing commander of the 914th Airlift Wing of the Air Force Reserve in Niagara Falls, had to tell 246 of his servicemen that they were going to be furloughed.

"Most of our full-time people are on furlough, so they are home without pay right now," Gordon said.

There remains 116 of Gordon's fellow members on base, primarily firemen and security personnel, who are necessary to "keep minimum functions running," according to Gordon.

In addition, John Higgins, the commander of the 107th Airlift Wing of the New York Air National Guard in Niagara Falls, had to send 180 of his 250 full-time personnel home.

The laws and regulations of government separate federal workers into "excepted" and "non-excepted," according to The Washington Post. The Office of Management and Budget ordered all federal agency managers to "conduct reviews to see which of their employees fall into each of these two categories," The Post reported.

Employees are not the only citizens affected by furloughs.
Because most of Gordon's and Higgins' servicemen are at home, the Air Force Reserve and National Guard teams' short-term response time to natural disasters or attacks may take longer than usual.

"Right now, because a good chunk of our people are home, our short-term response time would probably take a little bit longer, but we could reconstitute as quickly as necessary to do whatever tasking would come down for the base," Gordon said.

Higgins said that although his National Guard unit, which works for the governor but receives federal funding, is scaled back, it is still capable of responding to natural disasters.

"We're able to still do our mission if needed," Higgins said. "Obviously it's a little frustrating to our folks who were sent home and aren't getting paid, and we'll do whatever we're told, but if the state needs us, we're there to do it."

Congress, which failed to pass a budget by Oct. 1, still appears to be at a stalemate. House Republicans won't agree on a fiscal plan unless Obamacare is defunded, but Senate Democrats are just as insistent that it doesn't.

"Obviously it's out of our control," Higgins said. "But we'll do the best we can with the resources we have."

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