Three days into a federal government shutdown, 19th Airlift Commander Col. Patrick Rhatigan said the Little Rock Air Force Base is "maintaining" its operations despite the loss a large number of civilian workers who have been put on an emergency furlough.
Since the government shutdown Tuesday, 350 civilian workers at the base have been placed on leave without pay, according to a statement. The base employs more than 600 civilians, Rhatigan said. The base is the sixth-largest employer in Arkansas, according to the statement.
Active military personnel at the base are still reporting for duty, as well as covering for the positions left vacant by the furloughed civilians.
Rhatigan said it will be up to the federal government as to whether civilian workers will receive back pay after they return. Arkansas 2nd District Rep. Tim Griffin filed a bill Wednesday asking for back pay for thousands of state and federal workers who are currently furloughed.
While the hours of operation for certain areas of the base will change during the shutdown, one of the biggest blows dealt to the base is the halting of work for the 19th Civil Engineer Squadron. The largely civilian-lead unit handles a variety of trades on the base from plumbing to structural maintenance to electrical issues. For now, the squadron will be allowed to work only in emergency situations.
Rhatigan said flights are still occurring as normal, with airmen taking on extra duties to ensure that flights stay on schedule.
The bases' medical clinic will remain open during the shutdown, although base officials caution those those seeking medication attention should expect longer waits for doctors and calls, according to the statement.
During the 2012 fiscal year an estimated 3,717 jobs were indirectly created through the air force base that carried an average salary of $39,840, according to a report from the base. In total, the report states, the jobs yielded an annual value of $148,085,280. The report adds that the base carried a local economic impact of $895.6 million.
Read more about this story in tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.