Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will visit Charleston Air Force Base on Wednesday morning where he is scheduled to discuss the furloughs and budget cuts affecting thousands of the Pentagon’s civilian employees throughout the region.
Hagel’s visit was announced late Friday afternoon and is being billed as a three-day domestic trip to communities that feature major military installations on the south Atlantic Coast.
Hagel will arrive here Tuesday evening after touring Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla.
“Given the significant impact budget reductions are having on uniformed and civilian personnel, Secretary Hagel believes it is a critical time to visit military installations and hear directly from the men and women of the DOD,” the Air Force said in its announcement notice.
Hagel has three stops scheduled at the Air Force Base, with the last being a 40-minute appearance in what is being called a civilian employee Town Hall meeting.
About 300 Air Force civilian workers are being invited to discuss “the current challenges posed by sequestration and the DOD-wide civilian furlough,” the Air Force said.
A short question-and-answer session will be held for members of the civilian workforce, a Joint Base Charleston spokesman said. Hagel will not be taking questions directly from the attending media.
Friday ended the first week of the Pentagon’s furloughs in which thousands of employees locally, statewide and nationally are being made to stay home one day out of every five for the next 11 weeks, through September.
The furloughs are part of a round of mandatory budget cuts called “sequestration” that came about after Congress failed to come to an agreement last year on spending reductions.
In the Charleston area, the furlough is affecting a minimum of 4,300 government workers, while the statewide number ranges to over 11,000, including in other military towns such as Beaufort, Columbia and Sumter.
Hagel’s other stops at the base include a review of flying and support operations and aeromedical capabilities, followed by a visit to the C-17A engine test/repair center.
After the Charleston stop, Hagel heads to Camp Lejune, N.C.
Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.