- 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 that began even before the sequester kicked in March 1, bringing large cuts to this year’s Pentagon budget.
The unpaid furlough days are expected to begin July 8 and may 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. Federal defense workers will begin receiving official notification of the furloughs May 28.
The average salary for Pax River federal workers is $105,508, and reflects an abundance of senior workers, or employees in top pay grades. Middle-income earners at Pax River take home salaries between $42,000 and $67,000 a year. Lower pay grades can be $27,000 a year or less, according to an Office of Personnel Management chart describing salaries of federal workers in the Washington metropolitan area.
For people bringing home smaller incomes, “that’s going to affect their ability to make a car payment, their ability to make a mortgage payment,” said Joseph Flynn, a vice president with the American Federation of Government Employees. Some have kids in school and have to pay tuition. “It’s going to be disruptive,” he said. “There’s no question about it.”
Flynn said AFGE has been in negotiations with government leaders to allow employees to decide when they take those furlough days. But, his biggest fear is that the pay cuts will last beyond the end of the fiscal year. “I’ve got a feeling we’ve only seen a small piece of it,” Flynn said.
St. Mary’s County has been bracing for the impact, said Steve Anderson, director of community and economic development. County leaders have put aside reserve funds and have been meeting with leaders in the defense industry to stay informed. The only thing St. Mary’s can do now “is wait and see,” Anderson said. “God forbid this goes another year.”