BARSTOW • The U.S. Department of Defense budget will incur a 20 percent — or approximately $500 billion — reduction over the next 10 years if automatic spending cuts take effect on Friday.
Fort Irwin and the Marine Corps Logistics Base are the top two employers in the Barstow area — with several employees residing in the surrounding High Desert — and have many civilian employees concerned about the impact of the sequestration cuts.
Leah Laux Bailey is a single mother of three and a property disposal tech for the Defense Logistics Agency at the Nebo Marine Base. She resides in Barstow and said if sequestration is passed she'll be required to take two furlough days per pay period for six months, cutting approximately $800 from her monthly income.
"The cuts will greatly affect my family," she said. "I have my 12-year-old, 8-year-old and 4-month-old children and my disabled mother living with me. I already watch every penny spent and will have to even more so."
Bailey said she believes the spending cuts would affect surrounding communities as well.
"It's going to trickle down," she said. "Just think about the grocery stores and all of the businesses in Barstow. I already watch every expense in my house."
Ruben Davila is a Humvee mechanic with PrimeTech International at the Marine Corps Logistics Base Yermo Annex. He said he has worked at the base for a total of four years.
"We don't really know anything yet," Davila said. "I think they've mainly talked about furlough days."
He said some of his fellow colleagues were worried about getting fired.
"I'm not going to let it bother me or ruin my life right now," Davila said.
Marine Corps Logistics Base spokesman Rob Jackson said the base was in a "wait and-see mode." They currently employ 1,500 civilian workers.
"At this point I don't have a lot of information on how (sequestration) will affect MCLB Barstow," Jackson said.
Fort Irwin and National Training Center Commander Brig. Gen. Theodore Martin spoke to the Fort Irwin community over the radio Wednesday morning discussing the possibility of furlough days should sequestration go into effect. Col. Kurt Pinkerton at Fort Irwin said if sequestration occurs, Fort Irwin civilian employees don't automatically go on furlough.
"If we go into sequestration there could be a lot of decisions made by administration to see if we have the funding and resources to prevent furloughs," Pinkerton said. "If a furlough is determined necessary then it would take effect at the end of April and go until September."
About 1,100 Department of the Army civilians employed at Fort Irwin would be impacted, according to Pinkerton. He also said 22 is the maximum amount of furlough days that would be required with the possibility of less being necessary to balance the Dept. of Defense's budget.
Pinkerton said the National Training Center will operate with a reduced staff but will still conduct training rotations and operate five days a week. The March and April rotations were recently canceled but he said it was not a result of any of the budget discussions.
"Units are off-ramping for Afghanistan," he said. "The unit that was going to come in is no longer scheduled to deploy."
Like many government offices, the base is currently on a hiring freeze.
"Until we get through this phase of economic struggle going on in the government, we're not hiring daily," Pinkerton said.