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Shutdown affects Tinker, National Guard

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Thousands of civilian employees at Tinker Air Force base were furloughed Tuesday and the national Storm Prediction Center is cutting down on its communication to the public as the federal government faces its first full day of a partial shutdown.

Officials at Tinker Air Force Base say about 2,900 of 14,000 civilian employees have been furloughed until federal funding is resumed. Nearly 700 federal technicians at the Oklahoma National Guard were also furloughed.

“Every member of the Tinker team is important to accomplishing our mission. This shutdown puts severe hardship on an already stressed workforce,” Tinker Air Force Base officials said in a statement.

Col. Max Moss with the Oklahoma National Guard said 691 federal technicians — many of whom are soldiers and airmen — were furloughed Tuesday morning.

“Many of them have deployed overseas and fought for our country in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Moss said. “The vast majority of them have deployed multiple times since 9/11 and now we’re sending them home” and saying it’s unclear when they’ll be able to return to work. “That’s a tremendous hardship on them personally, professionally and on their families.”

But Moss added that the full-time employees still working will continue to focus on supporting mobilized soldiers and those about to mobilize.

The shutdown also means that Oklahoma National Guard soldiers will not be performing weekend training or annual two-week training, meaning that even soldiers who aren’t full-time employees will be affected by the shutdown. Moss estimates that as many as 10,000 soldiers and airmen in Oklahoma will feel an economic impact from the shutdown.

“For a lot of our younger soldiers and airmen, they come to drill and perform drill and the money they receive from that is their car payment or their electric bill,” he said.

The shutdown occurred at midnight Tuesday morning after a divided Congress deadlocked over President Barack Obama’s health care law, stalling a temporary funding bill. The partial shutdown, the first since 1995-96, is forcing about 800,000 federal workers off the job and suspending all but non-essential government activities.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin on Tuesday defended House Republicans for their strategy of linking funding for the federal health care law program to negotiations over the budget, saying Senate Democrats and the president have “refused to negotiate.”

“I think everybody is to blame on this,” said Fallin, who served two terms in Congress before she was elected governor in 2010.

“The federal government needs to get its act in order. Washington needs to get a long-term sustainable budget for our nation, because the uncertainty that it creates if the federal government shuts down is bad for our state, it’s bad for our nation, it’s bad for our families and it’s bad for business,” she said.

Some federal employees and the general public will notice differences. The Storm Prediction Center based in Norman, Okla, for example, will not be posting as many updates to its Faceook page for the public to see. Although the Center is still operational, only critical weather information will be posted.

USDA reports from livestock auctions in Oklahoma City and El Reno each Tuesday and Wednesday won’t be provided, though state agriculture officials will continue to report from other auctions around the state, said Jack Carson of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture’s market development division.

The auctions will continue — the cow and bull sale Tuesday in Oklahoma City and Wednesday’s feeder market sale in El Reno — but the prices won’t be reported.

The reports are used to help set prices on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Carson said.

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