Local civil service may be impacted by DoD furlough
SIERRA VISTA — U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has ordered the furlough of defense department civilians to begin in early July.
Tuesday, Hagel directed 11 furlough days for civil service employees, half of the 22 days which were initially anticipated.
Its impact on Fort Huachuca will not be immediately known, as the defense secretary’s decision is the starting process, post spokeswoman Tanja Linton said Tuesday afternoon.
In his message, the defense secretary said the department “is facing a historic shortfall in our budget for the current fiscal year.”
The sequestration law, which went into effect on March 1, imposes deep across-the-board cuts and that combined with the fact “we are short more than $30 billion in our operations and maintenance accounts,” means that civil service furloughing has to be done, Hagel said.
The defense department has sharply cut back on facility maintenance, shifted funds and reduced “many other important, but non-essential programs,” he said.
Additionally the military services have significantly reduced training and maintenance of non-deployed operating forces, which Hagel called “steps that will adversely impact readiness“ but the cuts are not enough.
Saying his decision to start the civil service furlough was done “very reluctantly,” the defense secretary ordered the start of the program on July 8 at the rate of one furlough day per week for most personnel.
The one day a week non-paid day off will continue to the end of the current fiscal year, which is Sept. 30.
Linton said Hagel’s decision starts the required process of informing each branch of the military to comply.
For the Army, specific rules and procedures will come down channels according to which command a unit is assigned, which will determine what the process will be, she said.
The commonality is that every civil service employee will have to be informed in writing 30 days before the first day of furlough, Linton said.
Since the defense secretary has designated July 8 as the start of furlough, notifications should be in hand by June 8, she said.
Because the fort has many units assigned to different commands, those organizations will be waiting on other specific rules from their higher headquarters, Linton said.
There are many issues which have to be considered and reviewed in making furlough decisions, to make sure health and security are not compromised, Linton said.
In articles in the Feb. 24 issue of the Herald/Review senior Fort Huachuca officers talked about the approaching March 1 sequestration and what the potential impact could be on the post.
All of officers said the number of civil service employees which could be impacted was unknown, because of potential exemptions for health and security reasons.
Department of the Army figures in February indicated there were more than 13,000 full-time Army civil service employees in Arizona.
The southern Arizona Army post is the largest Army facility in the state — with the Army Proving Ground in Yuma smaller in population.
According to a guide listing military installations worldwide, which is a supplement to the Military Times, the civilian workforce on Fort Huachuca is about 8,000 but there was no difference made between Army civil service and contractors, the latter not being affected by the furlough requirements.
Also, not affected are employees paid through non-appropriated funds, dollars which are not provided by the federal budget process, which are called appropriated funds. Non-appropriated funds come from charges people pay to use a variety of functions on military posts, normally provided by Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation activities.
There are exceptions to the furlough program with no Department of Defense civil service employe who is deployed or temporarily assigned to a combat zone or those necessary to protect the safety of life and property being specific examples listed.
Hagel noted in his decision message, “I have made my decisions very reluctantly because I know that the furloughs will disrupt lives and impact DoD operations.”
Initially, the 22 days of furlough were estimated to cost civil service employees about 20 percent of their pay, and with the reduction it probably will be 10 percent of their annual salary.
When sequestration started no overtime also kicked in, saving funds.
Hagel said if for some reasons “our budgetary situation permits us to end furloughs early, I would strongly prefer to do so.”
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