Only eight days stand between $500 billion in automatic budgets cuts and 800,000 civilian Department of Defense employees -- meaning some 800 workers at the U.S. Army War College and Carlisle Barracks may face wage reductions by up to 40 percent.
The sequestration, or automatic budget cuts, swings into effect March 1, cementing the reality of furloughs for the last 22 weeks of the fiscal year for 800,000 DOD employees across the United States.
Though it was estimated that furloughs could affect each worker by 20 percent, U.S. Army War College Deputy Commandant Col. Bobby Towery said it could mean more for some barracks employees.
"A lot of our employees are dual status," he said. "So not only is that 22 days out of one person's salary -- that's times two. It can equal up to 40 percent of their pay."
The furloughs are the first step in a plan to cover the sequestration's effects, should Congress and the president allow the reductions to kick in on March 1. Lt. Col. Elizabeth Robbins, spokesperson for the Pentagon, told The Sentinel Wednesday that the cuts are especially tough on the department given last year's budget cuts, as a part of the Budget Control Act of 2011, which were scheduled to be implemented over the next 10 years.
"We've already absorbed $487 billion -- it's the addition of the $500 billion that is really making things difficult," she said. "We have $1.2 trillion less coming into our coffers."
Robbins estimates the furloughs could generate $4-5 billion, but that still leaves tens of billions of dollars to go in reducing costs.
"We view it as unfortunate, obviously," Towery said. "To have people lose basically 20 percent of their income is extremely significant."
Towery said the cutbacks will deplete resources from every department, including Dunham Army Health Clinic, the Dental Clinic, multiple tenant organizations, Defense Commissary Activity and the U.S. Army Garrison.
"It's important for all of DoD to be prepared," Towery said. "And that's what we've been doing for the past several weeks now, is preparing for a potential furlough."
As a part of those preparations, Towery sent out a letter Wednesday to the staff at the Carlisle Barracks detailing the furlough and what it means for Carlisle.
The furloughs will affect full-time employees, except for civilians deployed in combat zones, those involved in safety of life or property, employees funded 100 percent with non-appropriated funds, foreign nationals and employees exempt by law, such as presidential appointees.
That means that 80 percent of the barracks' workforce -- 834 civilian employees -- will be affected by the furloughs, should they be instituted, Towery said.
"We have to keep that in mind -- it's a potential furlough, it's not definite," he said. "But anytime you deliver bad news is not good, but professionally it's the right thing to do."
The U.S. Army War College and Carlisle Barracks serve as the only full-service installation unit in Pennsylvania and maintain a close relationship with the community in Carlisle and throughout the Cumberland Valley, Towery said. The $9 million funding cut will cripple the facility's ability to host public outreach events, such as the Army Heritage Days, he said.
But Towery said the atmosphere on base remains optimistic.
"I think that the news of the impending potential furlough was an anxiety producing event for employees," Towery said. "The feedback I got from everyone was thank you for spelling that out and letting them know. I think they felt a little bit more at ease about what could potentially come up ... I'm extremely confident in our senior leaders of the nation that they will come to some type of compromise."
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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