Whiteman officials say shutdown would affect quality of life but not operations

Whiteman AFB officials say a government shutdown would curtail base services like the commissary, shown here.

Services available for airmen would be curtailed at Whiteman Air Force Base but wartime operations would be unimpeded in the event of a shutdown, officials said Friday.

Candy Knight, a spokesperson for the bomber base near Knob Knoster, told KRCG 13 a government shutdown would likely cause furloughs for some or all of the base's roughly 600 civil service employees. That would close some base services staffed by civilians such as the commissary, roughly equivalent to a civilian grocery store, and family support services such as child care and the base thrift shop. Knight said she has no way of knowing how many employees would get furloughed, but those furloughs would start immediately. She said about 2,000 civilians work at the base in total, but most of them are under contract and would not be affected by a shutdown.

According to the Department of Defense's contingency plans for a shutdown, only civilians who were absolutely essential to critical functions would not be furloughed. Senate-confirmed officials would not be furloughed, and those officials could retain their immediate office staff at their discretion. Uniformed personnel may substitute for furloughed civilians. Contractors would continue fulfilling their obligations until the money appropriated for a contract ran out.

Military personnel would continue to perform their duties, but Knight said a shutdown lasting longer than a couple weeks would cause payment delays, and that would spell trouble for young airmen living paycheck to paycheck. She said airmen in this situation would need to talk to their commanding officers and their creditors about paying bills at a later time.

As the home of the U.S. B-2 stealth bomber fleet, Whiteman is a crucial national security asset, and Knight said the base's core missions would continue regardless of whether a shutdown occurs. A 2013 Congressional Research Service report said government operations deemed essential to the protection of life and property are permitted to continue operations in the absence of federal appropriations, including operations performing national security or foreign relations duties. The CRS report noted the longest shutdown in U.S. history ran 21 days, from December 16, 1995 to January 6, 1996. That scenario would mean one missed pay period for uniformed personnel. The report notes most government shutdowns have lasted for a week or less.