Fairchild Air Force Base, the largest employer in Spokane County, said Tuesday the government shutdown in Washington, D.C. has been very disruptive to the base's operations.
It's disruptive because civilians are a key part of nearly every operation at the base and when the government shut down, 300 civilians and 248 full-time Guardsmen arrived at work Tuesday only to be told to go home. Each was briefed and told don't come back until the Congress passes funding for their positions.
"The government shutdown here at Fairchild is greatly and extremely disruptive," 1st Lieutenant Matthew Sanders said.
The services closed by the shutdown include the teen center, and the base library, while the base commissary will close Wednesday indefinitely, leaving people to stock up on groceries Tuesday afternoon.
"Without those government civilians working, airmen and excepted civilians will have to try and share the load," Sanders said.
From serving food and helping maintain the base gym to aircraft maintenance and flight scheduling, no sector of Fairchild was safe from the shutdown.
"Even our flying mission is impacted somewhat because we do have civilians that help," Sanders said.
The 548 people turned away from their daily routine Tuesday make up nine percent of the base, but like many businesses and federally run departments, nine percent is too much.
"Government civilians play a vital role in accomplishing that mission and they all are essential. They're part of our team and we need them," Sanders said.
While military personnel will continue to receive pay, there's no guarantee the people who have been furloughed by the shutdown will receive back pay.
The situation at Fairchild resembled the situation across the state, as the Washington Military Department sent furlough notices to more than 850 employees as a result of the shutdown.
“These employees do everything from maintaining our vehicles and aircraft to fighting cyber attackers,” said Major General Bret Daugherty, the state’s adjutant general and commander of the Washington National Guard. “The Washington Military Department will suffer a significant reduction in resources due to a shutdown. With that said, we will do our best with what we are authorized to maintain the highest level of readiness possible.”
In the event of an emergency, Governor Jay Inslee is still authorized to activate National Guardsmen to assist in a state response.
The Washington Military Department confirmed that it will decide Wednesday whether or not Air or Army Guard units scheduled for training this weekend will participate in training or not. There are more than 8,000 Guardsmen that could face their regularly scheduled monthly training weekends canceled as a result of the government shutdown.