July 8, 2013 Nearly 85% of the DoD’s civilian workforce, approximately 650,000 individuals, will see a day without pay this week, as the Defense Department initiates mandatory furloughs. Starting today, affected employees will likely take one unpaid day off each week until September, the end of fiscal year 2013. The furloughs are expected to save the Pentagon about $1.8 billion of the 37 billion loss from sequester-related budget cuts. While active duty military will not experience pay cuts, it’s important to understand exactly how this will affect you and your family. The military relies heavily on DoD civilian employees; our lives are truly intertwined. Here’s what you need to know:
COMMISARY: On May 24, Joseph Jeu of the Defense Commissary Agency put out a memo that stated, ‘commissaries that are normally closed on Mondays will now close on Tuesdays, as well, during the duration of the furlough.’ Of the roughly 16,000 individuals in 13 countries and two U.S. territories, the furloughs will impact all of the agency’s more than 14,000 U.S. civilian employees. The closures will be in effect until September, with uncertainty if this schedule will remain into the 2014 fiscal year.
MEDICAL CLINICS: Sequestration cut the military health system budget by $3 billion. DoD civilians comprise 40 percent of the total workforce in military hospitals and clinics and are subject to furloughs. With limited exception to those civilian employees in war zones, foreign workers oversees and behavior health specialists, it is likely these furloughs will cause longer wait times and reduced hours at base clinics. It is also likely that lab results and pharmaceutical needs will experience delays. Be sure to check with your local base clinic to familiarize yourself with any and all reduced hours.
TEACHERS: Teachers employed with the DoD are not exempt from the current round of furloughs. Concerned with an impact on student’s class time, the DoD and the DoDEA arrived at five furlough days for educators. Currently, those furlough days have not been scheduled, and will be determined at the start of next school year.
OUR COMMUNITY AND ECONOMY: It is possible that military communities who rely on the base for income will be hard hit, estimating losses at tens of millions of dollars. Notes Rhea Law, CEO and chairwoman of the board of the Fowler White Boggs law firm and chief of the Command Advisory Council for the 6th Air Mobility Wing “These folks are going to be using their savings for their needs as opposed to buying things like cars and other things that fuel other parts of the economy.’ She continues, “This is a significant hit for our entire country and certainly for our community.”
READINESS: Training and maintenance will be affected by the furlough and sequestration, as the DoD relies on civilian employees to help manage programs. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel expressed concern about how the cuts will affect active duty military readiness. In a memo dated May 14, 2013, Hagel noted, ‘we have begun making sharp cuts in the training and maintenance of our operating forces — cutbacks that are seriously harming military readiness. The Army, for example, has terminated most remaining FY 2013 training rotations at its combat training centers. TheAir Force has or soon will stop all flying at about one-third of its combat coded squadrons in the active forces. The Navy and Marine Corps are cutting back on training and on deployments — including a decision not to send a second carrier strike group to the Gulf.’
EQUIPMENT: The military relies upon equipment often manufactured by DoD civilian employees. Deborah Witherspoon, president of the local National Federation of Federal Employees union at the Letterkenny Army Depot warns that ‘furloughs will delay repairs on military equipment ranging from patriot missile systems to land mine rakes used to explode bombs ahead of troops that march into dangerous areas.’ The furloughs not only cause a 20% reduction in pay, but a 20% reduction in how fast repair work is completed and, ‘how fast we can get those items out to the soldiers in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world.’
NATIONAL GUARD MILITARY TECHNICIANS: Currently, there are more than 52,000 Military Technicians wearing the U.S. Army and Air Force uniforms representing nearly half of the National Guard’s full-time force. 2013 Military Spouse of the Year and National Guard spouse, Alicia Hinds Ward stresses, ‘Unlike regular civilian employees, these technicians are required to be a member of the National Guard, attend weekend drills and annual training with their National Guard unit, maintain all fitness and readiness standards of their active-duty counterparts, and can be involuntarily ordered to active duty at any time. They are the primary maintainers of National Guard ground equipment, airframes, equipment upgrades, and administrators of training at the unit level.’ The furloughs will reduce a signficant number of the force, limiting the National Guard’s operations readiness across all state and federal missions. Because active duty military and contractors are prohibited from filling the spaces of the furloughed workers, the National Guard will experience maintenance and equipment delays.
Warns Hinds-Ward, ‘We take care of home; active duty does not take care of home. If you compromise our ability to take care of home-then what?
Call to Action: EANGUS (Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States) requests all members immediately contact your member of Congress asking them to support H.R. 1014, introduced by Congressman Palazzo. Please go to http://www.capwiz.com/eangus/issues/alert/?alertid=62484936&type=CO to contact your members of Congress to encourage them to co-sponsor and pass this legislation.