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  • Hamm, Kyle C.
    Army Pfc. Kyle C. Hamm has graduated from basic combat training at Fort Jackson, Columbia, S.C.
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    Air Force Airman Colton T. Barker graduated from basic military training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, San Antonio, Texas.
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    Air Force Airman David J. Sellers graduated from basic military training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, San Antonio, Texas.
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Last-ditch effort to halt sequester fails
WASHINGTON – Squabbling away the hours, the Senate swatted aside last-ditch plans to block $85 billion in broad-based federal spending reductions Thursday as President Obama and Republicans blamed each other for the latest outbreak of gridlock and the administration readied plans to put the cuts into effect.
On the Senate floor, a Republican proposal requiring Obama to propose alternative cuts that would cause less disruption in essential government services fell to overwhelming Democratic opposition, 62-38.
Moments later, a Democratic alternative to spread the cuts over a decade and replace half with higher taxes on millionaires and corporations won a bare majority, 51-49, but that was well shy of the 60 needed to advance. Republicans opposed it without exception.
– Associated Press
Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Staff Sgt. Seth Koval, left, and Tech Sgt. James Howe of the 122nd Fighter Wing work on an A-10 attack jet on Thursday.
Sequestration: Local impact

Still awaiting word on cuts

Air Guard has some information; other groups say they’re in dark

Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Master Sgt. Nathan Keller of the 122nd Fighter Wing works Thursday. Civilian military technicians are to take one unpaid day a week for 22 weeks.

– Many local recipients of federal money are up in the air when it comes to spending cuts known as sequestration – except at the Air National Guard base, where 200 workers, including the base commander, face 22 days of unpaid leave.

By and large, officials in the public and private sectors say they don’t know what they’ll lose or when they’ll lose it. Many referred questions to regional or national agency offices, which have been forecasting gloom for weeks.

Craig Williams, director of operations and facilities at Fort Wayne International, could have been talking for a lot of people when he said about federally funded air traffic control operations: “There is no specific information that has been given to anybody here in Fort Wayne. All of that is being worked out at the Washington level.”

The government must notify employees 60 days in advance of possible furloughs. Some workers already have received such notices, and many more notices are expected to go out today, when sequestration will begin cutting $1.2 trillion in federal spending over 10 years, including $85 billion in the next seven months.

Here is a look at local agencies and companies that will or might be affected:

Transportation

Fort Wayne International Airport is among 60 airports in the country that the Federal Aviation Administration has said will lose air traffic control from midnight to 5 a.m. during the sequester. But no flights are scheduled to arrive at nor depart from the local airport during those hours.

Williams said two workers are assigned to the overnight shift at the control tower.

Even if a flight would be delayed past midnight or a pilot would have to make an emergency landing, “all pilots are trained to operate without a control tower,” Williams said. “Pilots all know what to do; ground personnel all know what to do.”

Williams said he has not been informed when overnight air control will cease or whether the Transportation Security Administration will trim employee work schedules in Fort Wayne.

Defense

The Air National Guard’s 122nd Fighter Wing announced last week that 200 civilian military technicians, nearly two-thirds of its full-time workforce, will have to take unpaid leave one day each week for 22 weeks starting in late April.

On Thursday, the base confirmed that its commander, Col. David Augustine, is among affected personnel. Augustine, a command pilot and combat veteran, and the others are considered dual-status civilian military technicians who are paid from two streams of money.

The forced leave will affect three pilots. Base personnel work four 10-hour days each week and have military exercises one weekend each month. These “weekend warrior” drills – and the pay that goes with them – will not be affected by spending cuts.

Nine members of the 1st Battalion, 293rd Infantry in Fort Wayne, which has an armory on Cook Road, will be required to take 22 days of unpaid leave, according to the Indiana National Guard. Twenty-seven other full-time personnel at the 293rd will not be affected.

Defense contractors with a local presence either didn’t know or weren’t sure how the sequester would affect their operations.

ITT Exelis had no comment, spokesman Tim White said.

In an emailed statement encouraging “our nation’s elected officials to reach a bipartisan solution” to avoid sequestration, Raytheon spokesman Peter Ramjug did not directly address the Fort Wayne operation or possible effects here.

BAE Systems’ Fort Wayne facility primarily does commercial – not defense-related – work.

Kristin Gossel, spokeswoman for BAE Systems, said sequestration contingency plans include a 10 percent reduction in jobs across the company.

With little guidance from the federal government so far, BAE officials don’t know what specifically is being cut and how much each of its five divisions would be affected.

“This is the thing that’s making everyone crazy,” Gossel said.

Sequestration’s effects have already trickled down to some subcontractors in the area.

Bob Hinty, owner of Hentz Manufacturing LLC, laid off 17 workers a week ago and expects to make more short-term staff cuts if a budget agreement isn’t reached soon. The total workforce in the factory at 1530 Progress Road is about 100.

Hentz workers cut and sew material for Georgia-based Disc-O-Bed, which supplies the U.S. military. The bed design includes durable fabric stretched over a metal frame that uses discs at the corners, where frame parts meet. The military version includes pockets for storing personal items.

The beds sell for about $500 each. Hentz received an order for more than 10,000 beds last July. A new order to be filled in 2013 and 2014 was a go as of December – but then delayed in January because of concerns about the sequester.

Hinty’s frustration was evident Thursday afternoon. He said that until politicians elected to Washington “grow up and do their jobs,” it’s difficult for everyone else to do their jobs.

Health care

Sequester-related cuts include 2 percent to Medicare payments to health care providers, including hospitals.

Joe Dorko, Lutheran Health Network’s CEO, said about 45 percent of the network’s revenue comes from Medicare reimbursements. Medicare payments are already on the low end of the scale, which includes private insurance companies, he said.

But the CEO isn’t planning staff furloughs or other drastic measures in response to a potentially short-term dip in reimbursements.

“Operations tomorrow will look the same as they did yesterday,” he said.

Parkview Health officials did not respond to a request for comment.

Indiana also stands to lose about $1.7 million in grants to prevent and treat substance abuse, among other federal money.

The Food and Drug Administration is expected to lose $206 million, the Washington Post reported. But an FDA spokeswoman this week declined to place a dollar figure on the expected impact.

David Dvorak, president and CEO of Zimmer Holdings Inc., said FDA cuts will slow down review and approval of new medical devices. Warsaw-based Zimmer is an orthopedic devices manufacturer.

Dvorak, who is also chairman of AdvaMed, a medical device industry lobbying group, said the FDA won’t even be able to access user fees paid by medical device manufacturers to speed up the approval process.

Erica Jefferson, FDA spokeswoman, confirmed her agency will not have access to the money paid in by private-sector companies.

“We would not be able to undertake program activities that have already been specifically designated and paid for with user fees,” she wrote in an email.

The Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health has not been informed of possible cuts to federal grants or vaccinations that are administered by the state, department spokesman John Silcox said.

Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program are exempt from the spending reductions.

Education

President Obama said Feb. 19 that under the sequester, “Thousands of teachers and educators will be laid off.”

Fort Wayne Community Schools receives nearly $278,000 a week from a federal grant for special education students and students from low-income families. Krista Stockman, the district’s spokeswoman, said 210 teachers are funded by that and other federal grants.

Stockman said that however federal reductions occur, “it is highly unlikely we would make staffing changes at this point in the school year. Logistically and contractually, it would be nearly impossible to lay off staff right now.”

East Allen County Schools has estimated a potential loss of $463,000 in federal funds for the 2013-14 school year, according to public relations liaison Tamyra Kelly. But she said East Allen has received no information from the Indiana Department of Education on prospective reductions.

Likewise, Chris Himsel, superintendent at Northwest Allen County Schools, said his district had received no notice of what to expect in funding reductions. Himsel said NACS receives little federal money for disadvantaged and limited-English students.

Steve Yager, superintendent of Southwest Allen County Schools, said the district is unaware of pending cuts to programs.

The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators estimates a 5.1 percent cut in federal financial and work-study assistance for college students in the 2013-14 school year. That would amount to roughly $71,200 at IPFW and $24,400 at the University of Saint Francis.

Law enforcement

Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday that the U.S. Department of Justice will see a 9 percent funding reduction, which amounts to $1.6 billion. He said federal prosecutors, FBI agents, DEA agents and ATF agents would lose pay.

Owen Putman, public information officer for the DEA’s Chicago office, which oversees a Fort Wayne operation, said, “It’s doubtful (sequestration) will have any effect on enforcement operations.”

The DEA and FBI would not say how many people work in their Fort Wayne offices.

Veterans

The Department of Veterans Affairs is exempt from sequestration.

Social Security

The Social Security Administration is exempt from sequestration.

bfrancisco@jg.net

sslater@jg.net

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