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February 28, 2013

State Officials: Defense cuts will hurt

(Continued)

OKLAHOMA CITY —

A similar plan is in place at Fort Sill, where about 2,600 employees are facing furloughs. Civilian workers at the state’s other military installations  Vance Air Force Base in Enid, Altus Air Force Base and the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant  also will be forced to take furlough days if the cuts move forward.

Another 3,200 civilian workers and 1,100 students at the Federal Aviation Administration’s Aeronautical Center in Oklahoma City also would face furloughs, according to the FAA. 

The federal agency also could shut down air traffic control towers at smaller airports in Ardmore, Lawton, Norman, Oklahoma City, Stillwater and Enid, as well as eliminate the evening shift at the Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City.

The looming cuts also are leading to uncertainty among federal contractors, who are unsure of how their operations will be affected.

“I think everybody, as Americans, are concerned about it,” said Jennifer Hogan, a spokeswoman for Boeing Co., which employs about 1,350 workers in Oklahoma City who mostly work on Department of Defense contracts for repair and maintenance of KC-135 refueling tankers, and the B-1 and B-52 bombers at Tinker.

“Until we really hear from our customer what those things are going to be, there’s not a lot we can do right now,” she said.

Beyond the defense cuts, education officials say the federal cuts will have a major effect on schools in Oklahoma, with a potential impact of nearly $52 million, according to State Department of Education estimates.

“The percentge of students with disabilities, coupled with a high poverty rate  those districts will be hit the hardest,” said Jeff Mills, director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association. “Generally they’re your urban areas Oklahoma City and Tulsa that will see a huge impact.”

Teresa McAfee, the superintendent of the 300-student Crutcho School District in eastern Oklahoma City, said her district stands to lose a pre-kindergarten teacher, summer school and its extended-day program if the federal cuts are enacted.

“We could potentially lose 6 certified positions, and we only have 27 teachers,” McAfee said. “I hope these people up there get a clue and do what they need to do.

“We’re going to be in major trouble if we let them cut all these programs.”

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