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Vandenberg focus unwavered during furlough: people, safety and mission surety

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- On May 14, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel directed approximately 800,000 personnel across the Department of Defense to prepare to be furloughed up to 11 days beginning July 8, one day per week, through Sept. 30.

Of those 800,000 appropriated fund and foreign national civilians who face possible furlough, 1,132 are Vandenberg employees.

"I'm sorry to say that in addition to the 30th Space Wing saving $8.392 million toward our total directed budget reduction of $10.565 million, we are required to furlough almost all of our civilian employees this fiscal year," said Col. Nina Armagno, 30th Space Wing commander. "Although our amazing civilian force is the backbone of all operations at Vandenberg, this furlough is necessary to minimize adverse effects to America's premier spaceport and the near-term readiness of our Airmen. During this time, we remain focused on maintaining mission safety and protecting activities relating to life and property."

In a message to all DoD personnel dated May 14, Hagel stated that there will be exceptions driven by law and by the need to minimize harm to the execution of core missions.

"In order to uphold our standard of 100 percent mission success here at Vandenberg, some positions were directed exempt from furlough by Secretary Hagel. We know child development center positions were exempted," Armagno said. "However, at this time we do not know which or how many positions will be exempt. Further, the Air Force may approve up to 50 additional exceptions. This is a very small number, so the threshold for achieving any additional exceptions will be very, very high."

Employees are expected to be notified between May 28 and June 5, with furloughs scheduled to begin July 8.

"To the greatest extent possible, employees will be notified of a furlough in writing, hand delivered to the employee by the immediate supervisor," said Ronald Cortopassi, 30th Space Wing executive director. "While this is our preference, if not available in person, individuals will be notified by certified mail and return receipt to their home address of record."

According to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the furlough poses a 20 percent pay cut to those affected during the 11-week time frame. Base officials urge personnel experiencing untenable stress to use helping agencies available at Vandenberg.

"Rockets can be replaced, so can trucks, wrenches and computers, but we cannot duplicate our most valuable asset - the men and women of Team Vandenberg and the 30th Space Wing," Armagno said. "I urge you to seek help if you're feeling the effects of stress are unmanageable. We have award winning agencies on base, from the Vandenberg Health and Wellness Center, Mental Health to the Vandenberg Chapel staff that is poised to assist our civilian workforce during this time. Here at Vandenberg, I know everyone will continue to serve our Nation with great pride as we work together to get through this difficult period."

Extensive information on furlough is available at www.opm.gov/furlough/, click on "Guidance for Administrative Furloughs" and "Supplemental Guidance for Administrative Furloughs."