Budget crisis may lead to airbases ‘shutdown’

THOUSANDS of staff at Suffolk’s American airbases were yesterday braced for a “government shutdown” amid a budget crisis on the other side of the Atlantic.

RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall are home to tens of thousands of US personnel and British workers.

However, the two bases were yesterday awaiting news of the US budget which yesterday remained unsigned because of a deadlock between Republicans and Democrats in Washington.

The situation means some staff face being put on furlough (not having to come and to work and not receiving pay), while military staff face having delays in their pay coming through.

Explaining the situation to RAF Mildenhall staff, Colonel Chad Manske, commander of the 100th Air Refueling Wing, said: “In the event our federal budget is not signed, a furlough will commence beginning at midnight [tonight].

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“This is essentially a government shutdown.

“We have briefed all of our US civilian employees regarding the effects of a furlough.

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“What this essentially means from a workforce standpoint is that all military will still come to work, that non-appropriated funds (NAF) civilian employees will still come to work, that Ministry of Defence (MoD) employees will still come to work, that all contractors performing on-going contract work will still execute those contracts, and that in most cases, all local national direct, and indirect, hires will still come to work.

“The primary workforce affected by the government shutdown who would, in the majority of cases, not come to work, are appropriated fund (APF) employees, and government service (GS) civilian employees.

“One of our affected agencies on base that will close in the event the government shutdown takes place is our commissary.”

At neighbouring RAF Lakenheath, airmen have been warned they could face delays in pay as a result of the problems. Airmen have been warned they will have to wait to be reimbursed back pay until after the budget is agreed upon by Congress.

“Obviously our airmen are worried about possibly not having money should the government shutdown come in to play,” said Captain Thomas Schmidt, 48th Fighter Wing Judge Advocate chief of claims and legal assistance.

“Regardless of a government shutdown, anytime someone is struggling with their finances they should come and talk to us,” he said.

The RAF Lakenheath Commissary could also be affected.

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