ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) — About 3,300 hundred Department of Defense workers in New Mexico are being told to brace themselves for possible furloughs.
It is a result of the massive automatic budget cuts set to go into effect if Congress doesn't act in the next week.
Right now civilian workers are first on the list.
This would affect workers and families at bases and labs across the state.
Kirtland Air Force Base officials say they are already exploring ways to cut back on spending while hoping furloughs don't become necessary.
A package of federal spending cuts known as the sequester will take effect March 1 unless Congress passes another budget deal before then.
The sequester includes deep cuts to the Department of Defense, and officials here at Kirtland AFB cannot afford to wait and see if Congress takes action.
"It is all a possibility,” says Col. Jeff Lanning. "It's an, ‘if,’ so like all good military stuff we are planning. We're looking at things now so we don't have to wait until the last minute and then not do the right thing."
Base officials say more than 2,100 civilian workers at Kirtland could face furloughs along with more than 800 at Holloman Air Force Base outside Alamogordo and about 400 at Cannon Air Force Base near Clovis.
Lanning says it could mean one unpaid day off a week for 22 weeks, beginning no earlier than late April. But who could be furloughed is ultimately up to DOD.
“The civilian members of our team are vitally important, and they are very highly valued, so it is difficult for us to be in any kind of mode where we are trying to speculate on things that might happen because it's a negative thing,” Lanning says. “It puts negative pressure on our teammates."
He says Kirtland has already put a hiring freeze in place and cut back on business trips and supplies.
They are also looking at other possibilities like delaying construction projects if the automatic cuts happen next month.
“The key is going to be leadership and making sure we do everything possible to minimize any impact on our overall Air Force mission and to do our best to take care of our people," Lanning adds.
The Aerospace Industries Association, representing another large employment arm here in New Mexico, is calling on Gov. Susana Martinez to ask the tough questions about sequestration at the National Governor's Association meeting this weekend.
A spokesman says Martinez has already met with the acting director of the National Nuclear Security Administration to discuss the importance of funding the state's national labs.
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New Mexico is located in the southwestern region of the U.S. Inhabited by Native American populations for many centuries, New Mexico has also been part of Imperial Spain, part of Mexico, and a U.S. territory.