Federal government shutdown forces ROTC staff furloughs at Columbus State

mrice@ledger-enquirer.comOctober 3, 2013 

The federal government shutdown has trickled down to ROTC programs.

The U.S. Army's Reserve Officers' Training Corps at Columbus State University was forced to furlough four of its 12 staff members as more than 800,000 federal employees were put on temporary unpaid leave this week, when Congress failed to agree on a budget.

ROTC training for the 108 cadets has continued as normal at CSU but office work has slowed considerably, said Lt. Col. Michael Feret, professor of military science and chairman of the university's ROTC department. The most significant delays have been in processing scholarship applications and human resources documents, he said.

"Our civilians are integral parts of our team," Feret said Thursday. "We rely on them heavily."

The shutdown, however, hasn't affected the local Junior ROTC programs -- at least not yet.

"We're so far down range, you can't see us with binoculars," retired Col. Roy Plummer, director of army instruction for the Muscogee County School District, said with a laugh. Then he sighed and added, "But eventually it will catch up with us."

Plummer explained that the spending freeze JROTC is under happens each year at this time as the federal government transitions from the end of one fiscal year, Sept. 30, to the next one, Oct. 1. So he plans for that funding dip in his budget and training for the approximately 1,200 Muscogee cadets continues. But if the federal government shutdown extends past mid-October, when the JROTC spending freeze usually is lifted, Plummer said, "we might have to cut something down the pike."

The website insidehighered.com reported Thursday that the Army ordered last month the closing of 13 ROTC programs due to financial constraints unrelated to the federal government shutdown.

One ROTC program in Georgia (Georgia Regents) and one in Alabama (North Alabama) are on the list. The others are Arkansas State, California at Santa Barbara, East Tennessee State, Morehead State, North Dakota State, Northern Michigan, South Dakota, Southern Mississippi, Tennessee at Martin, Tennessee Tech and Wisconsin at La Crosse.

Officials at several of the universities said they will work to reverse the decision, the website reported.

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