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Furloughs will affect 97 percent of the civilian employees at the Indian Head naval base beginning this month.

More than 1,870 civilian employees at Naval Support Facility Indian Head will be furloughed one day each week from July 8 until September as Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel directed in May, said Gary Wagner, public affairs officer for Naval Support Activity South Potomac. NSASP administers both the Indian Head and Dahlgren, Va., U.S. Navy bases.

Furloughing government employees is a cost-saving measure to cut billions of dollars from the federal budget through sequestration legislation that was approved last year. A deal in March delayed the cuts until this summer. Furlough days will mean a 20 percent reduction in employee pay.

“There are some exceptions that have been granted,” Wagner said. “They are few.” Wagner said that firefighters and police are a couple of the groups exempted from furloughs.

A press release this week stated that other cost-saving measures have resulted in cutting back on utility and building property maintenance, such as mowing around buildings and cleaning restrooms. The services are provided by Naval Facilities Engineering Command Washington.

Hours have been reduced at some base facilities, such as the fitness center, where hours were cut from 91.5 to 86.5 per week, and the Indian Head library, where hours were cut from 45 to 40 hours per week, according to the press release.

“We’re going to continue to operate, but at reduced hours in some of the facilities,” Wagner said.

The pass office at the base’s entrance, previously open 6:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, now is open 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. each weekday, the press release states. The office processes employee and visitor passes.

Wagner said that staffing of the pass office is done in shifts.

“By shortening the work day, it has helped us to not have a second shift,” Wagner said.

As reported earlier, Wagner said that each command at NSF Indian Head will handle the furloughs differently. The day off for personnel in each command will be up to the command.

“But, generally speaking, the guidance from the Department of Defense to all of the agencies ... is that it’s one day per week,” said Wagner, whose office also will be affected by furloughs. He added that staff in his Dahlgren office will coordinate days off so that someone is there Monday through Friday to represent public affairs.

“I think for us, [the most important thing is] to communicate with our employees,” said Capt. Peter Nette, commander of NSASP.

Nette said that as information comes down from Hagel and Navy headquarters, he will disseminate it to his employees. He said that the more employees at the Indian Head and Dahlgren bases know, the more they can plan.

“As information becomes available, we owe that to our employees,” Nette said. He added that he has told his tenant commands to expect things to remain the same in the fall, after furlough days end, when it comes to reduced facility hours.

Of hours for the pass office being reduced, Nette said that NSF Indian Head is unique in that it has only one entrance. Some base installations have more than one entrance, and in a situation of cutbacks, one entrance might be closed.

“So people might wait a little longer in line, but nevertheless, they’ll still get their pass on the base [at Indian Head],” Nette said.

Naval bases across the country have experienced the same percentage of cuts, Nette said, when it comes to reduced facility hours and employee furloughs. More than 4,400 civilian employees, about 93 percent of the total government civilian workforce, at Dahlgren will be affected by furloughs. Nette said that Dahlgren has a larger workforce than Indian Head.

According to a March press release, Indian Head employed more than 3,400 at the beginning of 2013. The base employs 2,378 federal civilians who work for a dozen commands; 615 employees are military personnel stationed at the base in a permanent duty status, and more than 400 are defense contractor employees.

rbarnabi@somdnews.com