500 positions at March Air Base jeopardized by sequestration

POSTED: 01:59 PM PDT Mar 19, 2013 
RIVERSIDE, Calif. -

To protect jobs at March Air Reserve Base, the Board of Supervisors today directed Riverside County's federal and state lobbyists to urge support for a congressional resolution that calls for military reserve personnel in technical positions to be exempt from "sequestration" furloughs that go into effect next month.

"This is all about saving jobs at March and nationwide," said Supervisor Marion Ashley. "Five hundred or more positions locally could be affected by this. It's an issue of national defense and economic stability."

Sequestration kicked in on March 1 because Democratic and Republican lawmakers could not reach a compromise on spending as laid out in the federal Budget Control Act of 2011. About $85 billion in cuts -- 2 percent of the roughly $3.4 trillion in outlays for the current fiscal year -- are being implemented.

Employees in a number of agencies -- the departments of Homeland Security, Transportation and Interior -- are facing temporary furloughs to meet budget restrictions. The furloughs begin on April 25.

Uniformed military personnel are exempt from the furloughs under a 1985 law signed by then-President Ronald Reagan. However, sequestration will impact civilian Department of Defense workers, as well as reservists and members of the National Guard.

"We're concerned about the potential for job losses," said Riverside County Economic Development Agency spokesman Tom Freeman, a retired guardsman. "It's technicians in the guard and reserve who maintain the operational effectiveness of our planes and other equipment at March Air Reserve Base . . . We don't want to see furloughs when the country is in war-fighting mode."

Rep. Steve Palazzo, R-Miss., has introduced a resolution -- H.R. 1014 -- proposing an amendment to federal law that would add National Guardsmen and reservists in technical positions to the furlough exemption list.

The House Budget Committee is considering the proposal.

"These (furloughs) are ridiculous when we still have (commitments) in so many places overseas," Ashley said.

The board voted to direct the county's state lobbyists to seek a joint resolution in the California Assembly and Senate expressing support for H.R. 1014, and for county lobbyists in Washington, D.C., to make sure Inland Empire congressional representatives are aware of the measure and the board's position on it.