U.S. Rep. John Barrow gained the support he needed Wednesday to try to keep Fort Gordon’s civilian workforce from facing a furlough during fiscal year 2014 that would cut employee pay by 5 percent starting in October.
The District 12 Democratic congressman from Augusta continues to work, however, to end the 11 days of unpaid leave the Pentagon is forcing more than 3,000 workers at Fort Gordon to take by the end of September to help save $1.8 billion in the Department of Defense’s budget.
On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed its version of the department’s 2014 Appropriations bill, which included an amendment introduced by Barrow less than 24 hours earlier to prohibit civilian furloughs in the upcoming fiscal year.
The change – cosponsored by Doug Lamborn, R-Colo. – keeps in place spending reductions but requires that those cuts are made from other areas within the department’s budget.
“This commonsense proposal will ensure that civilian employees at Fort Gordon don’t face furloughs again after Oct. 1,” Barrow said. “We’ve still got work to do, but I refuse to accept the status quo of gridlock. I’m going to keep doing all I can to support these folks who are facing a 20 percent reduction in pay through no fault of their own.”
Despite opposition from some in his own party, Barrow’s amendment and the appropriations bill was approved by a vote of 315 to 109.
The $600 billion spending bill includes about $512.5 billion for the Pentagon’s base budget and around $82 billion for overseas operations and mandates that no funds may be used to support the Egyptian government or given to the National Security Agency to “acquire or store the content of a US person’s communications, including phone calls and emails.”
The Senate Appropriations Defense subcommittee has yet to even mark up its version of the legislation. Any eventual differences between the two bills would have to be ironed out by a conference committee before the final version could go to President Obama.
By rule, the appropriations bill cannot alter approved funding and will not include legislation Barrow introduced two weeks ago that would exempt Fort Gordon’s civilian workforce from the 11-day furlough that began July 8 to make up $37 billion in cuts from sequestration, which started in March.
The Pentagon reportedly wanted to extend furloughs into fiscal 2014. The unpaid leave, though, would equate to a 5 percent pay cut, compared with the 20 percent pay cut employees are facing now.
At Fort Gordon, the time off – taken mostly on Fridays – has affected more than 3,000 employees, including 35 security guards whose absence forced the base to borrow military personnel to man clearance gates.
Barrow said he continues to seek support through congressional letters and coalitions for House Bill 2613, which would amend the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 to give President Obama the authority to grant furlough exemptions to all civilian employees in the Department of Defense.
The bill has nine co-sponsors and has been referred to the House Budget Committee. No vote is scheduled at this time.
Barrow stressed both pieces of legislation will preserve the spending cuts mandated by the budget sequestration, but mandates that the reductions will be made in other places within the defense budget.
Richard Carbo, Barrow’s press secretary, said he is not aware of any talk concerning where cuts may be made in the department’s budget to make up the possible loss of furloughs.
“I’m sure they’ll have a better idea once DoD is given their funding numbers for next fiscal year,” Carbo said.