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Flying operations resume amidst DoD civilian furloughs

The 391st Fighter Squadron is slated to resume flying July 17, 2013 after a four-month hiatus, which has been relaxed as the Air Force Council approved the use of $208 million to restore flying hours for affected units. The change to flying hours is a result of the $1.8 billion reprogramming allocation authorized by congress. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Samuel Morse)

The 391st Fighter Squadron is slated to resume flying July 17, 2013 after a four-month hiatus, which has been relaxed as the Air Force Council approved the use of $208 million to restore flying hours for affected units. The change to flying hours is a result of the $1.8 billion reprogramming allocation authorized by congress. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Samuel Morse)

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- Among civilian furloughs, the 391st Fighter Squadron is slated to resume flying July 17 after a four-month hiatus, which has been relaxed as the Air Force Council approved the use of $423 million to restore flying hours for affected units.

The change to flying hours is a result of the $1.8 billion reprogramming allocation authorized by congress, whereas the decision to furlough civilians was made at the DOD level and is not connected to Air Force decisions regarding ACC's flying hour program.

"As the wing commander, I'm happy to be flying again," said Col. Chris Short, 366th Fighter Wing commander. "It's the first step toward regaining our combat capability. However, we're still suffering the impacts of the civilian furlough. We are not operations normal and we will have to begin flying while mitigating the effect furloughs have on our mission capability."

In the midst of furlough, some civilian employees see the renewal of flying operations as a positive start.

"It's a drastic step, and I'm hoping the furloughs don't last long, but I understand the priority has to be the mission first and our main priority is to fly airplanes," said David Phillips, 366th Civil Engineering Squadron unaccompanied housing superintendent. "If they're restarting flying, that's probably the first step to getting everything back on track."

In an Air Combat Command article, Gen. Mike Hostage, commander of Air Combat Command, is quoted, "Returning to flying is an important first step but what we have ahead of us is a measured climb to recovery."

Both the flying hours funding and the civilian furloughs are currently scheduled to last through the end of the fiscal year, but the future beyond remains undecided.

"This decision gets us through the next several months but not the next several years," the general said. "While this paints a clearer picture for the remainder of FY13, important questions remain about FY14 and beyond. Budget uncertainly makes it difficult to determine whether we'll be able to sustain a fully combat-ready force."

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