- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Federal civilian defense workers will be furloughed for as many as 11 days beginning in July, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said this week.
Hagel’s announcement comes after months of waiting and confusion for federal workers, which started even before federal budget cuts — known as “sequestration, the result of Congress’ inability to arrive at a budget compromise — kicked in March 1 and brought large cuts to this year’s Pentagon budget. Originally, defense workers were told to brace for as many as 22 furlough days.
Now, the unpaid furlough days are expected to begin July 8 and might last through the rest of the fiscal year. Most personnel will be furloughed one day per week for as many as 11 weeks. That will equal a 20 percent cut in pay during that time.
“If our budgetary situation permits us to end furloughs early, I would strongly prefer to do so. That is a decision I will make later in the year,” Hagel wrote in a memo dated Tuesday.
The furloughs will affect Naval Support Facility, Indian Head; Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Lexington Park; Webster Field in St. Inigoes; and Joint Base Andrews in Camp Springs.
“The only thing that’s confirmed — this was confirmed [Monday] by the Secretary of Defense — is furloughs will go into effect for civilian employees in the department,” Gary Wagner, public affairs officer for Naval Support Activity South Potomac, said Wednesday. NSASP administers both the Indian Head base and Naval Support Facility, Dahlgren, in Dahlgren, Va.
Details are not yet known about how many of the more than 3,400 employees, 2,378 of which are federal civilian employees, at Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head Division will be affected by the furloughs, Wagner said.
“Which days employees are able to take off on furlough has not been determined,” Wagner said. He added that such decisions will be made according to each command.
As far as how the furlough days will affect the mission of defense facilities, Wagner said that impact is unknown.
“The immediate impact is on the employee. They’re being forced to stay home one day a week,” said Wagner, who also will be furloughed one day a week.
Wagner said that his office staff in Dahlgren will adjust schedules so that someone is always in the office. He said that other departments will do the same.
“I think commands are going to make decisions and do the best they can to continue their mission and make sure demands are met so we don’t see a huge impact like [empty offices one day per week],” Wagner said.
Dennis McLaughlin, technical director at Naval Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technology Division in Indian Head, said that furlough notices will go out next week for 1,750 employees there.
“We have plans to make sure our certain elements are supported in our days off,” McLaughlin said. He added that 20 percent pay cuts also mean 20 percent of the work will not get done. By law, employees are not permitted to do work for which they receive no compensation.
McLaughlin said he also will be furloughed.
U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md., 5th) released a statement late Tuesday.
“I’m deeply disappointed that Department of Defense civilian employees, including 46,000 hardworking employees in Maryland, will begin receiving furlough notices in two weeks because Congress has failed to reach an agreement to replace the sequester. Our public servants, who support our men and women in uniform, do not deserve to experience furloughs, which will result in a pay reduction of 20 percent for the remainder of the fiscal year and come on top of the $114 billion that federal employees have already contributed toward deficit reduction.”
Hoyer further chastised Congress in his statement for spending time discussing political message bills this week instead of finding a way to stop sequestration and prevent employee furloughs.
Naval Air Systems Command, headquartered at Pax River, employs 24,000 civilians, but in March, about 488 employees were expected to be exempt from furloughs.
Employees expected to be exempt were funded by foreign military sales, deployed with the military or paid by a nonappropriated fund, according to a command memo.
Official notices of furloughs will begin to go out to employees May 28.