Post faces $55 million sequestration hit

By The Mercury

Sequestration could have a $55 million impact on operations at Fort Riley during the current fiscal year alone, military officials believe.

Those same officials are working on plans to be implemented in the event Congress and President Obama fail to reach an agreement on a new budget deal prior to the March 1 date at which automatic budget cuts dictated by sequestration would go into effect.

Statewide, the impact of those reductions on the Army alone has been calculated at $414 million, with a loss of nearly 8,000 jobs.

John Armbrust, executive director of the Governor’s Military Council, said the impact at Fort Riley alone would translate to about 30 percent of the budgets of both the division and garrison commands. Those funds do not impact uniformed personnel, but they do impact civilian employment. He said post officials are currently engaged in “working on” how the sequestration cuts would be implemented.

If sequestration goes into effect, the entire impact would have to be achieved by the end of the current fiscal year, which is Sept. 30. Armbrust said such reductions would require furloughs, and while the extent and number had not yet been determined, he said they would probably be around 22 days in duration. Most of the cuts would be likely to take place in the service area, with a focus on non-essential tasks. Continuation of an existing hiring freeze as well as tough limits on temporary and contractual employments were also considered inevitable.

Statewide, the projection calls for the furlough of about 6,650 civilian employees, with pay losses in the range of $40 million.

Reductions in military construction are also expected, with an estimated 240 jobs resulting statewide. Fort Leavenworth would take the hardest hit, with impacts there estimated at $161 million.

Defense Department officials said they intended to notify Congress Wednesday of the plan to furlough nearly 800,000 civilian employees nationally. The furloughs would be for one day each week beginning in April.

Exceptions from furloughs include political appointees and employees whose pay comes from sources other than congressional appropriations. Those whose job functions are necessary to protect life and property would also be exempt.

Nevertheless, some DOD civilian firefighters, police officers, nurses and other emergency workers in fully staffed departments could still be furloughed.

Employees who work standard 40 hour weeks would lose about 8 hours of pay each week, eventually adding up to around a month of their yearly pay by the end of September. DOD is still trying to determine how to institute the furloughs and the resulting pay cuts for those whose jobs require them to work longer-than-normal shifts, Robbins said.

There are no plans for civilians to recoup pay that is lost during the furlough, as has happened before during government shutdowns.

Some material for this article was first reported in Stars and Stripes.

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