Fort Benning employees could get furlough letters by mid March

Government employees at Fort Benning could be getting furlough letters by the middle of next month if the White House and Congress can’t agree on a deficit reduction plan by March 1.

“We would start drafting letters and getting them prepared the first week of March,” said Monica Manganaro, a post public affairs spokeswoman said Thursday. “We all will be depending on what happens on the first of March. We’ve got to plan with the anticipation that this is going to happen.”

Action at Fort Benning is in response to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s announcement to Congress on Wednesday that affected employees will get 30 days advance notice on furloughs. The Defense Department employs 800,000 civilians workers, including 4,100 at Fort Benning.

The automatic spending cuts already in place would require workers to take one day of work per week for up to 22 weeks.

On post, 1,015 employees work with the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command instructing soldiers, 1,200 with the day-to-day operations in the Installation Management Command and 1,885 in other major commands such as the hospital, Marksmanship Unit and others.

To answer questions from concerned employees, Manganaro said a meeting will be held Monday in a town hall type setting for the TRADOC workers.

“We all have our own mission to support,” she said. “Some in TRADOC might be instructors, writing doctrine, in experimentation or things that support training.”

At the town hall meeting, Manganaro said questions will focus on how employees may be affected by the furloughs, who does it apply to and what is the duration?

“There is a lot of uncertainty on when the furloughs are going to happen,” she said.

Employees have to consider taking up to a 20-percent cut in pay and what it means in a household. “We are really facing challenging fiscal times right now,” she said.”We want to let the workforce know that information will be shared as it comes in. There are going to be some tough choices ahead and we have to look at how we move forward.”

If furloughs occur, post officials will have to determine how to perform the mission while working around challenges with personnel issues. “We will have to stagger the workload,” Manganaro said.

Not all employees on post will be impacted by furloughs. Personnel who work in child care services and community services for families and soldiers will be exempt. Their salaries are paid from non appropriated funds like fees for services.