Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel made a stop at NAS Jax this morning to see a few of their facilities and talk to some of the base employees, many of whom are being furloughed as part of sequestration.
"I know this has been difficult for everybody," Hagel said to a room of about 100 workers. "And it may well get more difficult.
Hagel said when he was first told he would have to furlough employees he tried to find any other way he could to save the money, but in the end he said the decision came down to the fact that he couldn’t justify drawing down military readiness anymore and so civilian workers like Phillipe Abrigo and his wife are losing a whole day’s pay.
"It's a big chunk of my paycheck. How am I going to pay for my utilities? How am I going to put food on my table?" says Abrigo.
Abrigo, who tells WOKV he's worked for the Department of Defense since he was 18, says it’s easy for Hagel to get up there and talk about it getting harder especially when a 20 percent cut to a six figure salary like his doesn’t mean much when there are families making $40,000 a year also taking that same 20 percent.
"I dedicated my whole life supporting our warfighters and this is the thanks that I got?"
George Smith is another civilian worker who is being furloughed along with his wife. He says that while not having the money hurts his family's bottom line and they are having to cut back because of it, he's got other concerns that are bigger.
"My main concern is affecting the warfighter," said Smith.
Phillipe Abrigo echoed those sentiments, saying that, money aside, when civilian support workers like him are furloughed it means someone, somewhere in the military isn't getting the supplies or parts they need to do their job.
"We won't be here to support, to do what we're designed to do," says Abrigo. "I dedicated my whole working life supporting our warfighters and this is the thanks that we got from them?"
During his visit, Hagel toured the Fleet Readiness Center where they repair and refurbish aircraft and manufacture parts. He says he’s on a three day tour of military bases around the country.