Unfriendly Skies: Federal cuts could harm Stennis Airport
By Jennifer Lenain
Feb 26, 2013, 19:33
Federal budget cuts may cause dire situations for some in Hancock County. Local military operations could soon be disrupted and jobs may be lost – particularly at Stennis Space Center and Stennis Airport – due to the wave of spending cuts that could impact the government in just a few days.
The U.S. Navy will have to cut back on local training operations, Navy Spokesman Lt. Commander Chris Servello of Washington D.C. said Tuesday.
"The result of having no funding bill plus cuts under sequestration will mean a reduction in operations and civilian furloughs," Servello said.
The hiring of civilians has been frozen, according to Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert, unless a formal job offer was made or an "Entrance on Duty" date was established on or before Jan. 14, 2013.
The Navy is considering the possibility of civilian furloughs of up to 22 days in FY13.
If sequestration goes into effect, furloughs will begin in late April, Greenert said in a memo released to all Navy civilian employees
Bases around the country will see reductions in operation costs, Servello said.
"This is bigger than the Department of Defense," he said. "A number of agencies will be affected."
Stennis International Airport may see some major changes as a result of the budget cuts.
"If the federal budget sequestration goes through on March 1, seven contract employees at Stennis International Airport would be laid off," Airport Director Bill Cotter said Tuesday.
The facility's control tower would close in April, Cotter said.
The tower at Stennis International is one of 238 air traffic control towers that would be taking cuts, Cotter said. 195 of those are contract towers that handle 30 percent of operations in the U.S.
"Contract towers are more cost efficient to tax payers," he said.
Of the 238 control towers, 43 are FAA -operated towers and those employees will be furloughed, he said. Cotter does not know exactly how long the airport can operate without a control tower.
"No tower means a slow down of traffic, a slow down of fuel sales and a slow down of people coming through the area," he said. "It will definitely have an impact on the local restaurants, it will have a ripple effect on the economy."
The contract towers were selected to take more hits because they operate only during daylight hours and are weather permitting, he said.
If the airport is not operated by an FAA tower, a large amount of flights would be sent to Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport or Armstrong International in New Orleans, he said.
Military traffic is expected to dramatically slow down at the Stennis International Airport, he said.