BOSTON — The White House says some 7,000 civilian workers at Massachusetts’ six military bases would be subject to forced furlough days if Congress fails to avert automatic, across-the-board spending cuts by Friday’s deadline.
Word has come down that roughly 2,000 civilian workers at Hanscom Air Force Base in Lincoln can expect to lose a day’s work each week if the sequester happens.
“People will continue to try to get the job done, but there’s no question it’ll be disruptive,” said base spokesman Charles Paone. The 20 percent cut in hours and pay, he adds, would hurt.
“It’ll lower productivity in general. It’ll lower morale, which in turn lowers productivity some more. There’s no question that there’ll be some negative effects on our ability to accomplish our missions,” he said.
At Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee, Lt. Col. James Bishop says the facility’s giant C-5 cargo planes are likely to spend less time in the air.
“The flying operations could be up to 18 percent less,” Bishop said. “So 18 percent less training flights translates into fewer flights and flight engineers and so on.”
Bishop adds that reservists like him are expecting a big reduction in on-base days, which after Sept. 11 grew to as many as 60 a year.
“When you cut that back dramatically, that just affects restaurants and hotels and dry cleaners and pizza parlors, and just right down the line,” he said.
Economists agree: furloughing defense workers means a hit to local economies. One recent analysis estimated almost 32,000 non-defense jobs depend on the state’s military reservations.
“You’re going to see the services in those communities, the consumer services, the household services, the entertainment services, you’re going to see demand for those services decline,” said Robert Nakosteen, an economist at UMass Amherst. “And they are actually going to be hurt. So this will have statewide, a small but definitely tangible effect.”
There’s one military service that may not feel as much pain. The Coast Guard, which is run by the Department of Homeland Security, rather than the Department of Defense, says it plans to meet any cuts without furloughing civilian workers.