WARNER ROBINS -- With the potential of automatic cuts still looming, the Air Force has ordered a civilian hiring freeze.
A memorandum sent to senior commanders Wednesday directed a halt to all civilian hiring, according to an Air Force release. How that will impact Robins Air Force Base is still uncertain, said Tech Sgt. Robert Lipham, the base spokesman.
The Air Force statement said the action is being taken to "pursue reversible and recoverable steps" in the event automatic cuts or other budget cuts are implemented.
The automatic cuts would go into effect March 1 unless Congress and President Barack Obama reach an alternative agreement.
The freeze applies to all positions open to those outside the Air Force, including temporary jobs. Promotions and reassignments within the Air Force will not be impacted, the release stated.
Lt. Gen. Darrell Jones, the Air Force's deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, issued the memo informing commanders of the freeze. Hiring actions can continue if a selection has been made, but if not, all current external job announcements must be withdrawn.
Additionally, commanders were directed to release temporary employees immediately.
"These are uncharted waters concerning the federal budget and the effect it will have on the Air Force," Jones said in the memo, according to the release. "It is imperative we work closely together to balance the mission needs and minimize impacts to our dedicated civilian employees and their families."
If an agreement to avoid the automatic cuts isn't reached, $1.2 trillion in cuts spread over 10 years would trigger on March 1. About $500 billion of that would come from military funding. The cuts, part of the Budget Control Act of 2011, were supposed to take place Jan. 2, but Congress and President Obama agreed to a postponement.
Retired Maj. Gen. Robert McMahon, former commander of the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center, wrote in an e-mail the hiring freeze "only scratches the surface" of what could come if an agreement isn't reached to stop the automatic cuts, commonly referred to as sequestration.
"The civilian hiring freeze at Robins Air Force Base is symptomatic of a much larger impact if Congress and the President fail to act before March 2," wrote McMahon, who now serves as president of the 21st Century Partnership, a community group that works to support the base. "As a defense community it is critical that we demand Washington address the effects they themselves would create through sequestration and any extension of the continuing resolution. This hiring freeze only scratches the surface of what Middle Georgia will see if action is not taken by Congress and the President."