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Furloughs begin for civilian defense employees

By Rana Novini, Anchor/Reporter, r.novini@krdo.com
Published On: Jul 09 2013 12:33:17 AM CDT
Updated On: Jul 09 2013 12:35:57 AM CDT

Federal spending cuts stemming from the March sequester will mean major furloughs at the Pentagon. Starting Monday, 650,000 Defense Department employees will be on furlough. Rana Novini reports.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -

Federal spending cuts stemming from the March sequester means major furloughs at the Pentagon.  Starting Monday, 650,000 Defense Department employees will be on furlough.

Civilian Pentagon workers will be forced to take one unpaid day off each week through Sept. 21.

That will equal a 20-percent reduction of their income.

Local civilian employees told KRDO NewsChannel 13 that a 20-percent pay cut is a huge deal to them.  Christine Day, whose husband is a DOD civilian on Peterson Air Force Base, said her family has already made some spending changes.

"We have already started to cut back on non-necessities," Day said.  "No going out to eat, no trips to the movies, and I even had to cancel our vacation to visit family in Texas this month."

Economist Fred Crowley told KRDO NewsChannel 13 that it's unclear how the furloughs will affect the economy.  Crowley said that based on the permanent income hypothesis, consumers change their spending habits based on a change in permanent income rather than a temporary one.  Since the furloughs are set to end after 11 weeks, Crowley said many may still continue their current lifestyle and make smaller changes, like canceling a vacation.  However, according to Crowley, since the future of the furloughs is unclear, there is great uncertainty as to what will actually happen.

One Colorado Springs businesswoman, Jody Freeland, says the furloughs have affected her raw dog food business.  Many of her customers are civilian employees, and they've cut back by not buying her product.

"I'm overstocked," Freeland said, pointing out her freezer packed with dog food.  "It affects my wages. I'm going to school, so it's going to be really hard to come up with tuition."

$85 billion in federal spending cuts kicked in March 1.  Observers warn the furloughs could slow the delivery of much-needed supplies to troops.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced the 11-day furlough period in May, down from the 22 days originally planned.

The furloughs are expected to save $1.8 billion in defense spending, just a fraction of the $40 billion that the Department of Defense has to cut.

The furloughs will also result in some reduced services on Fort Carson and other military installations. The following is a partial list provided by Fort Carson Public Affairs of furlough-induced closures and limited services various agencies:

  • Army Community Services - Facility hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.  
  • Army Emergency Relief - Closed Fridays
  • Commissary - Closed Mondays
  • CYSS facilities - No effect on current operations
  • Army Substance Abuse Program - Closed Fridays.
  • ID Cards - Closed Fridays.
  • Army Career and Alumni Program - Closed Fridays.
  • Housing Service offices - closed Fridays
  • SJA Legal Assistance - closed Fridays
  • DA photos/Passport photos - closed Friday

For those working and doing business on Peterson Air Force Base, Schriever Air Force Base or the United States Air Force Academy, the civilian furlough also means a potential change to customer service hours and availability.

Acting Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III sent the following furlough message to the Airmen of the United States Air Force:

"As you all know, Department of Defense civilian furloughs begin this week. With few exceptions, our civilian Airmen face involuntary furlough one day per week from the pay period starting July 8 through the pay period ending September 21.

Civilian furloughs are a measure of last resort and we deeply regret that the arbitrary across-the-board cuts imposed by sequestration led to this result. Despite standing down combat flying units, reducing space and mobility operations, reducing weapon system support, cutting installation support and facility repairs and cancelling most travel, training and exercises, we must still take this painful action. We recognize that this action inflicts personal and financial hardships on our civilian Airmen and their families. We need all of our great Airmen to do the Nation's work, and furlough is not the way to reward our dedicated civilian workforce for their service. We're sorry this is happening.

While furloughs have real consequences for civilian Airmen, the reduction in productivity and capability resulting from this action will affect all Airmen. We appreciate your professionalism in dealing with this situation and promise we will continue to work with DoD and Congress to seek repeal of sequestration and an end to the frustration and mission impact it causes.

We could not be the world's greatest Air Force without the contributions of every part of our Total Force - active duty, Guard, Reserve, and civilian Airmen. Thank you for your service to our Air Force and our Nation. We're proud to stand beside you.
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