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Reserve units still feel effects of sequestration

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. (AFNS) --

The impact of sequestration on readiness and morale has been felt widely throughout Air Force Reserve Command units.

Under the Budget Control Act of 2011 and the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, across-the-board budget reductions, referred to as "sequestration," were initiated on March 1, 2013, and included a mandatory six-day furlough for Department of Defense civilian employees.

"We won't know the full effects of sequestration for months, or maybe even a year or two," said Maj. Gen. Craig Gourley, vice commander of Air Force Reserve Command, "but we are already able to identify impacts throughout the command."

Many AFRC flying units reported reduced aircraft availability for training due to maintenance. The furlough of aircraft maintenance personnel has disrupted aircraft maintenance schedules, reducing 12- and 24-hour fix rates and reducing mission capable rates for aircraft.

"We've had a few wings report that pilots, loadmasters and aerial refueling boom operators have lost currency due to the lack of aircraft availability," said Gourley. "We know there will be a cost in terms of dollars and time to regain aircrew proficiency."

According to Gourley, the impact to training goes beyond aircrew.

"Sequestration and furloughs have caused a delay in upgrade training for reservists in their career specialty," said Gourley, "and we have seen the cancellation of mobile training teams and inspections."

The direct impact on reservists affects morale. Reserve units are reporting delays in Reserve pay and travel voucher processing, which has led to increased government travel card delinquency. Due to civilian furloughs, one force support squadron reported a 50 percent reduction in the processing of DD Form 214s, which document a person's "Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty." Reserve medical units report a growing backlog of line-of-duty determinations and medical evaluation board cases, and the processing of flying waivers.

The Air Reserve Personnel Center at Buckley AFB, Colo., has been hit particularly hard.

"The average pay grade level at ARPC is pretty low," said Brig Gen Jay Flournoy, commander of ARPC. "The employees did not have enough time to save money to make up for their losses in pay. Almost immediately, we were contacted by one mortgage lender who had received a letter from one of our employees who could not pay his mortgage."

According to Flournoy, ARPC has seen a loss of productivity. The Health Professionals Scholarship Program application backlog has more than doubled during the furlough period. ARPC customer waiting time has increased by two days, and there is a three-day delay in processing orders and approving documents in the orders writing system.

"Sequestration and furlough has been tough on everyone in the Air Force Reserve," said Gourley, "but I am impressed with the professionalism and dedication our reservists and civilian employees have demonstrated during this challenging time."

(Courtesy Air Force Reserve Command Public Affairs)

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