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Furloughs hit fort, Dahlgren civilian employees

Posted on Monday, July 8, 2013 at 10:01 am

Federal civilian employees at Fort A.P. Hill near Bowling Green and Naval Support Facility Dahlgren in King George County are among hundreds of thousands of workers in the Department of Defense who will begin experiencing furloughs starting July 8.

The civilian employees will be furloughed – leave without pay – one day per week. Most Department of Defense workers will be furloughed up to 11 days.

The furloughs will result in a 20 percent reduction in weekly pay for affected employees through the remainder of the current fiscal year, which ends in September.

The furloughs were directed by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel in May. They are being implemented by federal agencies as one method to deal with billions of dollars in budget cuts mandated through sequestration legislation that went into effect in March.

The furloughs originally were slated to take effect April 25 through the end of September for a total of 22 weeks.

At Fort A.P. Hill, about two thirds of the civilian workforce – 145 workers – will be impacted.

The installation received permission for 64 civilian employees to be exempt from the furloughs because their jobs involve public safety. In addition, recreational service employees are not subject to the furloughs; all Morale, Welfare and Recreation facilities will remain open at their normal operating hours.

Most departments on the Army training base will reduce their normal hours of operation or delivery of services due to the furloughs, said Robert McElroy, a spokesman for the Army installation.

Fort A.P. Hill “will remain open 24/7 and provide the best training support possible for every component across the Joint Force that uses the installation’s diverse range complex,” said Lt. Col. Peter Dargle, commander.

“Nobody’s really happy at all,” Dorrance Tucker, vice president of Local 2902 of the American Federation of Government Employees, which serves base employees, said when the furloughs were announced earlier this year. “A lot of people are upset. They’re trying to get their jobs done, but it’s getting more and more difficult every day because we don’t have the personnel.”

Tucker, a fire alarm technician, said he will lose about $400 per paycheck, which he receives every two weeks. His monthly car payment is almost $400, he added. “That kind of puts a big damper on my spending.”

At Dahlgren, over 4,400 civilian employees – about 93 percent of the total government civilian workforce at the facility – will be subject to the furloughs.

Most civilians will be furloughed with a few exceptions, to include those deployed in a combat zone, and those who protect safety of life or property such as firefighters and police officers.

The furloughs will not affect the operational status of Naval Support Facility Dahlgren.  The base will remain open for business for the normal Monday through Friday work week. However, cost-cutting measures have forced some reduction in base-wide support services.

For Navy shore installations managed through Commander Navy Installation Command, the budget draw-down has thus far equated to a 10 percent reduction in funding for base operating support services. All Navy installation commands in Naval District Washington (NDW) are affected, to include Naval Support Activity South Potomac (NSASP), which is responsible for providing a wide range of base support services for Naval Support Facility (NSF) Dahlgren.  These services include police and fire protection, safety programs, air operations, and quality of life programs and facilities.

Fiscal belt-tightening has also impacted utilities and building and property maintenance functions on the base, provided through Naval Facilities Engineering Command Washington, which serves as the Public Works Department.  That means restrooms are cleaned less frequently, grassy areas around buildings are not mowed as often, and employees have to empty desk-side trash, among other cutbacks.

As well, since March, Public Works crews at NSF Dahlgren implemented additional energy cost-saving measures, which included securing heating to buildings earlier than normal this season, as well as changing control set points for building air conditioning to 80 degrees.

Capt. Peter Nette, NSASP commanding officer, noted that other Navy-wide cost-cutting measures have been in effect for months.

“Like everyone else, we’ve curtailed travel and training and other administrative expenses, and we’re in a hiring freeze,” he said. “These cost-cutting measures have an impact across all installations in the Navy, and with some level of consistency across all programs.”