Tuesday, October 01, 2013

EDITORAIL >> Shutdown’s ripple effect

The ripple effect from the government shutdown was immediately felt Tuesday morning at Little Rock Air Force Base, where 335 civilian workers have been furloughed. The numbers are similar at Camp Robinson, where civilian employees stopped production of the Minuteman, the Guard’s monthly newspaper.

In an interview in today’s Leader, Col. Patrick Rhatigan, commander of the 19th Airlift Wing, calls them “our civilian teammates.”

The civilian furloughs are “causing distress and disruption to a workforce we depend on every day,” the colonel said.

The good news is that military personnel cannot be furloughed, but airmen must now do the work of civilians, who are regarded as key players in our nation’s defense, even if Congress doesn’t think so.

Congress can talk in the abstract about the shutdown, but Col. Rhatigan points to the price his civilian staffers are paying because of gridlock in Washington. “These circumstances are creating financial hardships for so many. Our team is currently supporting operations essential to our national security, such as our ongoing commitment in Afghanistan, where we still have 400 members deployed downrange. Our focus will remain on the mission, as well as being good wingmen by helping each other through these uncertain times. We appreciate all the local support for the men and women of Team Little Rock,” Rhatigan said.

State Rep. Mark Perry (D-Jacksonville) and retired Army National Guard Col. Mike Ross of North Little Rock, will hold a press conference at 11 a.m. today near the front gate of Little Rock Air Force Base on the effects of the government shutdown on civilian defense workers, veterans’ benefits and the local economy.

The fight is far from over, but our neighbors who work on military installations here have taken the biggest hit of all. Tell your congressmen to stop using Little Rock Air Force Base and Camp Robinson as bargaining tools in their games of brinksmanship. They’re harming our military and our national defense.