The federal government shutdown has hit close to home: National Guard members and civilians at Dover Air Force Base have been furloughed and two national wildlife refuges are closed.
Gates are up preventing access to the main entrances of The Coastal Delaware National Wildlife Refuge Complex – Prime Hook and Bombay Hook. While a lapse in funding remains in effect, public access to National Fish and Wildlife Service areas will be prohibited and fish and wildlife management activities and programs will be canceled, said spokesman Al Rizzo. This includes the youth wildfowl hunt scheduled at the refuges on Saturday, Oct. 5.
At Prime Hook, the visitor's center at the end of Turkle Pond Road and several trails are closed, but views of the refuge are still available along Prime Hook and Broadkill roads.
The shutdown has also affected the Delaware National Guard and Dover Air Force Base. More than 800 full-time civilian and military personnel are on furlough.
On Oct. 1, 350 full-time soldiers and airmen from the Delaware National Guard were sent home without pay, uniformed technicians who serve as part of the 750-person, full-time staff of the Delaware National Guard.
The shutdown places significant additional hardships on the workforce, which is already strained by recent administrative furloughs, said Maj. Gen. Frank Vavala, Delaware's adjutant general. Despite the substantial disruption and challenges, the Guard can and will continue to support key military operations in the United States and overseas, he said.
"Making it worse is this shutdown comes on the heels of them being furloughed during the period of July through September as a result of sequestration. This will pose a significant challenge on numerous fronts,” Vavala said.
Also on Oct. 1, Dover Air Force Base began an orderly shutdown of government activities.
Due to the lapse in appropriations, half of the approximately 1,000 civilian workers at the base were placed on emergency furlough, said Col. Rick Moore, 436th Airlift Wing commander. "We have impacted real families, real people," Moore said. "We sent them home without pay, for a period of time that is not yet defined."
The base exchange will remain open, as will all other nonappropriated fund facilities, including the shoppette, base theater, lodging and the dining facility. The library and commissary will be closed until further notice.
Positions that directly support wartime operations are not currently subject to furlough. The list of excepted employees is fluid and can be adjusted due to mission requirements, base officials said.
"I think our civilian workforce is strongly frustrated. This is really close on the heels of the furloughs that we underwent this summer,” Moore said. “I think that, combined with the uncertainty they are feeling due to the potential for more furloughs – and even possibly a reduction in force in fiscal year 2014 – has been a big drain on the morale of our civilian workforce.”