Sequestration could mean furloughs for civilian employees

By Sara Belsole

COLUMBUS, GA – It's down to the wire. A divided Congress has less than week to come to a compromise to avoid sequestration.

“If nothing happens, then the Department of Defense will receive an additional $500 billion cuts on top of the $487 billion cut,” Gary Jones, Executive Vice President of Military Affairs for the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, says.

That would mean 80,000 active duty army soldiers eliminated, 7,100 of them at Fort Benning.

But what about the civilian employees?

Department of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced last week the Pentagon will implement furloughs for most of it's 800,000 civilian employees.

“It's much much larger than people would envision than just the 80,000 soldiers, because there's a direct correlation between the soldier and what the soldier needs to do his job,” Jones says.

Fort Benning held a Town  Hall Meeting today for the few hundred civilian Training Doctrine and Command employees. The meeting was closed to the media and the public, but officials say it was meant to let the employees know what could happen. Officials declined to comment on the situation, saying there isn't enough information out right now. They say they will no more definite numbers when we hit the sequestration deadline on Friday.

“He doesn't think it's going to affect him, but he has a fear that it possibly will and they are possibly looking at maybe one non-paid day a week,” Rose Cushman says.

Cushman's son-in-law is with the Corps of Engineers in Mobile. She says furlough days would place a huge burden on his finances.

“They are newly married, children, new house,” Cushman says.

The one-day-a-week furloughs would start in mid-April and constitute a 20% pay reduction in this fiscal year.

Civilians deployed in combat zones, foreign citizens, presidential appointees and those funded entirely through non-appropriated funds would be exempt from the furloughs.

Officials say those who will be furloughed will be notified by March 18th.

The Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce is urging citizens to contact officials about the possible cuts and furloughs.

You can send mail to:

USAEC Attn: IMPA-AE (Army 2020 PEA)

2450 Connell Road (Bldg 2264)

Fort Sam Houston, TX 78234

or email: Comments must be received by March 21st.

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