DENVER (AP) – The Colorado economy could lose more than $48 million in wages over the next few months if automatic spending cuts take effect and the military puts civilian employees on intermittent furloughs without pay, a Colorado Springs business official said Thursday.

That total is for Air Force civilian employees alone, said Andrew Merritt, chief defense industry officer for the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance.

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About 6,200 civilians work for the Air Force in Colorado, Merritt said. At least 3,000 others work for the Army in Colorado, but no estimate of lost wages was immediately available for them.

At least $37 million of the Air Force wage losses would be expected in El Paso County, which includes Colorado Springs, Merritt said.

Five of the state’s six major military installations are in the Colorado Springs area: Fort Carson, Peterson Air Force Base, Schriever Air Force Base, the Air Force Academy and Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station.

The sixth installation is Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, outside Denver.

The furloughs would not start until late April because of the required advance notice to employees, Pentagon officials said. The maximum number of furlough days for any one employee would be 22, and they would be spread out over five months, until the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, the Pentagon said.

About 300 civilian instructors at the Air Force Academy could face furloughs, but academy spokesman Lt. Col. John Bryan said schedules would be adjusted so cadet class time isn’t affected. The academic year would be nearly over when the furloughs began.

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“We see very little impact to cadets,” Bryan said.

The cuts would not affect head coaches of five intercollegiate sports teams — football, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s hockey and women’s volleyball — because they are on contract, he said. About 50 other coaches and assistant coaches could be furloughed, however.

Furloughs could affect about 1,500 civilian employees at the academy, 3,900 at Peterson and 3,000 at Fort Carson. Some would be exempted from furloughs, including food-service workers at the academy and fire and police personnel at other installations.

Numbers for Schriever and Buckley Air Force bases weren’t immediately available.

About 600 civilian employees of the Colorado Army National Guard and Air National Guard also could be furloughed.

By DAN ELLIOTT, Associated Press

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