The uncertainty surrounding civilian furloughs in the U.S. Department of Defense lingered Wednesday as Fort Gordon employees braced for the next two weeks, when officials said they will be “served” with letters informing them of what days they must stop reporting to work.
Starting May 28 and running through June 5, the “vast majority of the 3,100 civilian employees at Fort Gordon” will begin to receive notices stating that they will be forced to take 11 days’ less pay over the summer, officials said.
Furloughs of one day a week will begin July 8 through the end of fiscal year 2013, which economists estimate will equal a 4 percent pay cut and cost the local economy $20 million in lost retail sales.
Beyond the numbers, it is the logistics of the furlough that remains unknown.
On Wednesday, Fort Gordon’s public affairs chief, J.C. Matthews, said that the post hasn’t received specific guidance on how to implement the furloughs and that he expects it will take awhile for those instructions to “filter down to our installation through our higher levels of command.”
While the senior administration at Fort Gordon waits, Matthews said post leadership will do “as much as we can to keep the workforce informed as we receive information.”
“We have a proud, dedicated and talented workforce at Fort Gordon, and we will prioritize our missions to ensure that we continue to provide the most critical support to service members and families under these conditions,” Matthews said.
The Pentagon, the nation’s largest federal agency, on Tuesday ordered furloughs of 680,000 civilian workers in an effort to save $1.8 billion of the $37 billion in spending cuts it must make this year.
“I have made this decision very reluctantly, because I know that the furloughs will disrupt lives and impact DoD operations,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a memo to employees.
In the bulletin, Hagel said that he, along with the senior civilian and military leadership of the Defense Department, spent considerable time reviewing information related to the need for furloughs, and added major budgetary shortfalls drove the furlough decision.
All cuts, Hagel said, date directly back to March 1, when sequestration went into effect and reduced the 2013 defense budget by $37 billion, including $20 billion in the operation and maintenance accounts that pay many of its civilian workers.
When factoring in rising fuel prices, the shortfall totaled more than $30 billion – a level that exceeds 15 percent of the defense budget request.
Hagel said that the military took actions earlier this year to reduce the shortfall – sharply cutting back on facilities maintenance, training missions and base operating costs, as well as preparing to ask Congress to shift some funding from investment and military personnel operational and maintenance funds.
But with fewer than six months left in the fiscal year in which to accommodate this dramatic reduction in available resources, Hagel said “these actions are not enough.” The secretary said he had “no choice” but to impose a civilian furlough in every military department along with almost every defense agency.
Civilians deployed to combat zones, emergency workers “necessary to protect life and property” and employees funded by non-appropriated funding will be exempt from furloughs.
All others have seven calendar days to contest the unpaid leave after they receive their furlough notices.