Colonel: cuts likely affect most OH base civilians

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DAYTON, Ohio (AP) -- A military leader at Ohio's largest military installation says most civilian workers at the southwest Ohio base are likely to lose pay if anticipated defense spending cuts go into effect.

The commander of the 88th Air Base Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton says fewer than 100 of the base's 13,000 civilian employees are likely to escape furloughs if the cuts occur, the Dayton Daily News and WHIO-TV reported.

Col. Cassie Barlow says fewer people on the job could mean shorter operational hours, and some patients seeking treatment at Wright-Patterson Medical Center might be sent to other hospitals if the center is short staffed.

The spending cuts are scheduled to start automatically March 1 if Congress and President Barack Obama fail to avert them.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said most of the military's 800,000-employee civilian workers could be forced to take unpaid time off if the cuts aren't averted.

Any Wright-Patterson furloughs are expected to be one day a week for 22 weeks, with employees receiving a 30-day notice next month, Barlow said.

Employees such as medical personnel and fire fighters could avoid forced unpaid time off.

Civilian workers' benefits such as health care and life insurance won't be affected, but "the real issue is that they'll have 20 percent less salary," Barlow said.

The loss in wages for Department of Defense workers furloughed in Ohio has been projected to be up to about $167 million, with most of that at Wright-Patterson, according to Barlow.

"The real estate agent, the car salesman, the local bank, the local restaurant, the malls, all of those places will see an effect I believe of those lost wages," she said.

The base will hold town hall meetings on the issue and answer employee questions through a hotline and a website.