Cherry Point officials uncertain of extent of budget cuts

defense cuts

Col. Philip Zimmerman, commanding officer of Cherry Point, speaks at a meeting of the New Bern Chamber of Commerce Military Alliance.

Chuck Beckley/Halifax Media
Published: Thursday, February 21, 2013 at 12:18 PM.

Budget cuts are expected at Cherry Point and Fleet Readiness Center East, but the extent of them is not yet known, base officials said in New Bern.

While acknowledging it’s unclear whether the cuts will be as severe as a possible 22 weeks of furloughs — equal to a 20 percent pay cut — for the base’s nearly 5,000 civilian workers, Cherry Point officials say they are preparing for whatever may come.

Col. Philip Zimmerman, base commander for Cherry Point, and Mary Beth Fennell, production team director for FRC East and its 3,107 employees, spoke to the New Bern Area Chamber’s Military Alliance members Wednesday just as Defense Department officials in Washington were outlining a cost-cutting plan that would be put in place if sequestration is triggered March 1.

That plan would result in one unpaid day off for civilian workers per week for 22 weeks.

Cherry Point has an annual economic impact of $2.1 billion on the area.

Zimmerman, who is in his fourth year as commander at Cherry Point, said he already knows the base will have $800,000 less in its baseline budget next fiscal year, but added, “I don’t know what sequestration will bring. I have received no guidance on that.”

For her part, Fennell said her team has been dividing its focus between the effects of the budget crisis and the workload of warplane and drone repairs, which workers have to get out the door.

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