Congress passes stopgap spending bill to avert weekend shutdown

Published: Thursday, December 07, 2017 @ 6:16 PM


            The Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center and the Aviation Trail Visitors Center in Dayton. A partial government shutdown in 2013 temporarily closed the historic sites. LISA POWELL / STAFF FILE PHOTO
            Lisa Powell
The Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center and the Aviation Trail Visitors Center in Dayton. A partial government shutdown in 2013 temporarily closed the historic sites. LISA POWELL / STAFF FILE PHOTO(Lisa Powell)

The House and Senate on Thursday passed a stopgap spending bill to prevent a government shutdown this weekend and buy time for challenging talks on a wide range of unfinished business on Capitol Hill.

The measure passed on a vote of 235-193 in the House and 81-14 in the Senate, and would keep the government running through Dec. 22. The resolution was set to be sent to President Donald Trump for his signature.

Without the stopgap, funding would have run out and a partial federal government shutdown would have ensued.

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Cassie B. Barlow witnessed the consequences of a 16-day partial federal government shutdown in October 2013 when about 13,000 civil service employees at Ohio’s largest single-site employer were sent home on furlough at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

“The biggest impact is a loss of trust on behalf of the employees and that’s something that is difficult to recover from,” the retired Air Force colonel and former base commander said in an interview Thursday with this news outlet. “These are people who have made a commitment to serve for 10, 20, 30, 40 years.”

The ripple effect of the shutdown stopped work in many cases throughout the base, which has major headquarters for the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center and Air Force Research Laboratory that support the entire Air Force.

“It really is just devastating and it’s very disruptive to getting work done,” she said.

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Congressional votes

U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, said he “reluctantly” voted yes for the stop gap spending measure to extend funding for two weeks “on the condition that leadership is making representation that they’re close to a budget deal,” he said in an interview Thursday.

U.S. Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Troy, also said he would vote for the stop gap legislation.

“Really my inclination is to vote no except that we can’t really shut the government down,” said Davidson, who expressed frustration with Senate inaction on House spending legislation.

Still, both representatives expected the temporary funding measure to pass Congress.

Turner was “not very confident” a final budget deal would be reached Dec. 22, citing uncertainty of what the Senate would do.

“If this become politics as usual, we could have a shut down,” he said.

Davidson said he was “not incredibly optimistic” a deal would be reached in two weeks with the Senate.

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‘Unfortunate mood’

Troy Tingey, president of American Federation of Government Employees Council 214, which represents thousands of Wright-Patterson employees, said members were concerned but expected a shutdown would be avoided.

Still, the years-long cycle of facing potential government shutdowns has taken a toll and led some to consider more stable employment outside of civil service, he said.

“The unfortunate mood is they’ve almost become immune to it so one of these days when it actually hits this time of the year, it will have a great impact on them,” he said.

The last time a shutdown hit four years ago, the Dayton region suffered economically, said Michael Gessel, Dayton Development Coalition vice president of federal programs.

“The effect of a government shutdown would be acute in the Dayton region because our economy is so dependent on the federal government but there would also be detrimental ripples throughout the country and it would cost our nation’s economy significantly,” he said.

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S&P Global reported a shutdown could cost the U.S. economy $6.5 billion a week or 0.2 percent of gross domestic product growth in the fourth quarter, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

Two key federal agencies in the region will not be impacted, however. The Dayton VA Medical Center and its four community clinics will stay open because the agency is funded through a two-year budget, spokesman Ted Froats said.

The U.S. Post Office, which is self-funded, will continue to deliver mail, post offices will remain open and passport applications processed, according to spokesman David G. Van Allen, an agency spokesman. Mail for federal agencies, however, will be held at processing plants until government operations resume, he said in an email.

If a shutdown had occurred, the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force would close Saturday and employees would be sent home until funding was restored, said spokesman Rob Bardua. The world’s largest military aviation museum attracts about a million visitors a year.

National Park Service sites in the Dayton region temporarily closed during the last shutdown.

What will happen?

Todd Harrison, director of defense budget analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Security in Washington, D.C., has watched Washington politics for years. He said reaching a final budget deal by Dec. 22 was “a flip of the coin.”

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“The main obstacles to reaching a budget deal and getting defense appropriations passed have little to do with defense,” he said in an email. “Sixty votes are needed in the Senate to reach a budget deal, which means it has to have some level of bipartisan support. The key budget issue that needs to be resolved is the level of non-defense spending, and both Democrats and Republicans are adding non-budget issues to the negotiations as well, like immigration, health care, and the border wall.”

If a shutdown happened at the Miami Valley base, where more than 27,000 employees work, military personnel and civilian employees in key jobs would report to duty, but would not be paid until the government shutdown is over, Defense Department officials said.

Among civil service workers, the determination of who would stay home and who would report to work would depend on if the activity was tax-funded or self-funded or whether an employee’s job is deemed essential for safety, the protection of human life or national security, Pentagon officials said.

Those exempted in the last shutdown at Wright-Patterson, for example, included firefighters, police officers and health care workers.

RELATED: Lack of defense budget raising concerns at Wright-Patterson

A shutdown this time would have similar results to one four years ago, said Capt. Hope Cronin, an Air Force spokeswoman at the Pentagon.

But even with another long-term continuing resolution, the Air Force and the Defense Department would be unable to start new programs, officials said. For the Air Force, it could reduce flying hours and postpone construction of facilities, among other impacts, she said.

“In essence, it just continues fiscal uncertainty,” Cronin said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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Air Force rolls out new enlisted personnel handbook: Here’s what changed

Published: Thursday, July 12, 2018 @ 10:08 AM

Airmen from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base hold a large American flag during a pregame ceremony prior to a Wright State University basketball game at the Nutter Center. The college hosted a military appreciation night. (U.S. Air Force photo/R.J. Oriez)
Staff Writer
Airmen from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base hold a large American flag during a pregame ceremony prior to a Wright State University basketball game at the Nutter Center. The college hosted a military appreciation night. (U.S. Air Force photo/R.J. Oriez)(Staff Writer)

The U.S. Air Force just rolled out its new enlisted personnel handbook, and it’s changing up the way enlisted airmen will address senior master sergeants.

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright announced the changes on Facebook. The Air Force no longer requires an associate’s degree from the Community College of the Air Force as a promotion requirement for master sergeants.

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“One of the biggest changes you’ll see, one that we’re also working to codify in our other AFIs, comes in para 3.1.3.1. An Associate’s Degree from the CCAF is no longer a promotion requirement,” Wright said.

New changes also address the way airmen address their top enlisted leaders. Airmen may address E-8s as “senior” or “sergeant” now, according to the handbook. The handbook defines the enlisted force structure and implements policy. This new handbook replaces the 2009 Air Force rules. View the handbook here.

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“To all the Seniors who’ve been telling people to stop using Senior, apparently now you’re officially a Senior, Senior,” one airmen commented on Wright’s announcement.

The changes are part of an initiative to address dated amendments.

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Dayton VA loses $90K in equipment. Why that’s ‘as close to zero as we can reasonably get.’

Published: Wednesday, July 11, 2018 @ 6:39 PM


            Dayton VA Medical Center. JIM NOELKER/STAFF
Dayton VA Medical Center. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

The Dayton Veterans Affairs Medical Center lost more than $90,000 in equipment between 2014 and 2017, according to a new investigation.

Dayton VA Public Affairs Officer Ted Froats said the number, which equates to about $22,500 a year, represents a fraction of the Dayton VA’s yearly inventory — around .0002 percent.

“The reality of running a 24/7 hospital with 500,000 outpatient visits a year is that that’s probably as close to zero as we can reasonably get,” Froats told this news organization in an email.

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VA facilities across the country lost more than $1 million in that time period, according to a WBNS-10TV investigation.

In Dayton, a total of $90,305 was lost.

John Hoellwarth, the national director of communications for AMVETS, said veterans deserve accountability regardless of the value.

“Whether it’s $1 million or $1.50, veterans deserve a VA that’s accountable,” Hoellwarth said.

Froats said that from 2015 to 2016, the Dayton VA cut their lost equipment per year in half, and the organization continued that progress into 2017.

The Dayton VA lost the least amount of equipment of the centers that were investigated. In Columbus, the VA facility lost $318,068.38; in Chillicothe, that number was $279,912.45.

The losses came even after the VA spent $24 million in Ohio to attach tracking devices to some equipment. The tracking devices, also known as real-time location systems or RTLS, either ping out a device’s location or allow a VA employee to scan for the items to keep track of them, according to the investigation.

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That doesn’t mean the devices will always work. According to records obtained as part of the investigation, the Dayton VA hired a contractor in 2014 to do an inventory of its equipment inventory listings, but the contractor left more than 1,000 items out of the inventory.

According to the records, the individuals that installed the RTLS in Dayton “did not perform well” and some of the devices were shown as being in rooms other than what they were, making the RTLS useless in the facility’s search for the lost items.

Records noted that the VA expected to find most or all of the missing equipment with the next inventory.

“It is our belief these items are not stolen and should be identified when the next wall-to-wall inventory is conducted,” the report reads.

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Froats said theft isn’t always the cause of losses, and items like stretchers or infusion pumps that travel with patients and can be mixed up in other units or even another hospital.

Froats said the Dayton VA prides itself on keeping track of its equipment.

“I’m a taxpayer, my boss is a taxpayer, her boss is a taxpayer,” Froats said. “We take lost equipment very seriously at the Dayton VAMC, and that’s why we’re proud to be the best in Ohio – successfully tracking 99.9998 percent of our annual inventory.”

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Thunderbirds celebrate milestone year representing US Air Force

Published: Tuesday, July 10, 2018 @ 9:05 AM

U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds Pilot Killed in F-16 Training Flight Crash

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds have been roaring through the skies for 65 years.

The Thunderbirds are celebrating its 65th year of representing the U.S. Air Force. On May 25, 1953, the Air Force’s official air demonstration team, designated the 3600th Air Demonstration Unit, was activated at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. The unit was named the “Thunderbirds” in part because of the strong Native American culture in Arizona.

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The first demonstration team flew and maintained the F-84G Thunderjet. “The straight-wing configuration of the F-84G was considered well suited for aerobatic and demonstration maneuvers, though the aircraft could not exceed the speed of sound,” according to the Thunderbirds team.

The Thunderbirds have traded aircraft throughout the years, flying the F-84F Thunderstreak, the F-105B Thunderchief, the F-100Ds and the F-16.

<p> FILE - In this June 18, 2010 file photo the U. S. Air Force Thunderbirds practice a maneuver during a rehearsal in preparation for a weekend air show, in Oklahoma City. The U.S. Air Force says a member of its Thunderbirds flight demonstration team was killed in the crash of his F-16 fighter jet in central Nevada. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki,File) </p>(Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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The Thunderbirds did not fly at the Vectren Dayton Air Show this year. Military jet teams like the Thunderbirds and the Navy Blue Angels are the biggest draw for the air show and organizers bank on their appearance to bring tens of thousands to the grounds at James M. Cox Dayton International Airport. The show can draw as many as 65,000 or more spectators when the teams fly, officials say.

In 2016, the Thunderbirds crashed prior to the Dayton Air Show, and injured Pilot Capt. Erik Gonsalves and Tactical Aircraft Maintainer Staff Sgt. Kenneth Cordova. The F-16 sustained significant damage, and the Thunderbirds cancelled all performances at the air show.

WATCH the Thunderbirds commemorate 65 years.

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Verizon’s new military discount program could save you hundreds

Published: Thursday, July 05, 2018 @ 10:53 AM

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Verizon’s new military discount program could save you hundreds of dollars every year.

Last week, Verizon launched its new program — active military, veterans and Gold Star families are eligible to save up to $40 every month on their cellphone plans. The deal offers $15 off regular monthly prices on one phone plan. It also offers $30 off on two lines or $40 off on three lines under Verizon’s unlimited plans.

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Military families can receive a $200 Mastercard prepaid card when activating a new 4G LTE smartphone on a new line of service, according to the company.

To get the military discount, simply login to your account and choose the unlimited plans you need.

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