Fort Benning official: Civilian workers could get furlough notice today

benw@ledger-enquirer.comFebruary 27, 2013 

With across-the-board cuts looming in sequestration and no budget reduction plan in sight, a Fort Benning official said Thursday that commands may be notified about possible furloughs as early as today.

"Once we receive the letter, we can probably do the math and calculate what that day in April will be," said Gary A. Jones, director of public affairs at Fort Benning. "I know it won't be any earlier than probably mid April."

The post has 4,100 Defense Department civilians who would be required to take off one day of work per week for up to 22 weeks. The cuts for 800,000 civilians employees across the nation would total $85 billion, impacting the military, teachers, head start, job training and other federal programs. The furloughs would cost an employee about 20 percent of yearly salary.

The defense secretary has said affected employees would get 30 days advance notice on furloughs. With time running out, Jones said the mood for most employees on post was different.

"I don't think anybody is particularly happy with the way things are going down to be honest," Jones said. "It doesn't matter if you are the lowest ranking guy or highest ranking guy, 20 percent of your pay is still 20 percent of your pay. And if you are not expecting it or even if you are expecting, that is money people certainly would like to have."

U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop Jr., D-Albany, voiced concerns about the cuts before Congress on Wednesday. He said the cuts would undermine the economy and hurt job creation.

"Today, I come before Congress to appeal to reason," Bishop said. "Without a doubt, the across-the-board spending cuts we call sequester will undermine our economy and hurt job creation. My district, home to Fort Benning in Columbus, the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany, the area outside of Robins Air Force Base, and thousands of service members, veterans, families, and supporting businesses cannot sustain the cuts proposed by Sequestration."

Bishop asked for a balanced approach to the cuts that also would negatively impact schools and teachers, law enforcement and crime prevention, public health and Head Start.

"We may be in the 11th hour, but we must act," he said. "We owe it to our constituents, we owe it to our districts, and we owe it to our nation."

Jones said cuts at Fort Benning would impact Columbus and Phenix City. The overall draw down of the Army is reducing training and already having an impact.

"We are going to have to consolidate some of the units and do things smarter so that we can save money," Jones said. "In other words, if you don't have enough soldiers to make a whole battalion, maybe you consolidate those down and put them in another battalion. Those are the kind of things we are looking at as these numbers come into sharper focus. Regardless of whether sequestration happens or doesn't happens, it's still going to be an environment of you have to save money because money is just not flowing as it used to."

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