FORT HOOD — Civilian employees of Fort Hood once again gathered at the main gate Wednesday to draw attention to looming furloughs.
The informational picket was aimed to get through to Congress to do away with furloughs altogether, said Samuel Boles, executive vice president for local chapter 1920 of the American Federation of Government Employees.
“It’s going to devastate employees and cripple certain portions of Fort Hood and the surrounding community,” he said, while a handful of federal employees held signs and shouted toward passing vehicles on T.J. Mills Boulevard.
If the furloughs go into effect, anywhere civilians work on post, people can expect delays or closures, said Cheryl Eliano, president of the chapter, which represents the 6,000 federal employees working at Fort Hood.
“Some services will not be business as usual. It can’t be,” she said.
Starting in June, the Defense Department could be forced to furlough employees 14 days through the end of the fiscal year in September, because of the constraints of sequestration. If the furloughs happen, notices will begin to go out at the end of the month. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he will stand with his employees and take the same cuts to his pay.
The number of furlough days is down from the original 22, after Congress passed a continuing resolution to allow the Defense Department to rearrange funding in its accounts.
Congress passed a similar bill last week for the Federal Aviation Administration, which enabled the organization to stop the employee furloughs that were causing flight delays around the country.
“It was so upsetting, because it showed me they care more about themselves than people,” Eliano said of Congress’ quick response to travel delays. “You let this (furlough) affect them, and response would be off the charts.”
Reps. John Carter, R-Round Rock, and Roger Williams, R-Austin, who represent Fort Hood and the surrounding communities, both said they supported, but did not vote on, the flight delay bill and both blame the president for the sequester.
“The president’s sequestration is law, and those budget cuts will be felt for years to come,” Williams said in an email. “Going forward, the best way to deal with sequestration is through regular order and replacing these harmful cuts with meaningful cuts and reforms. By passing a budget, Congress can give federal agencies the flexibility to absorb these reductions responsibly.”
Boles said the congressmen must think they are “stupid” to believe that the entire sequester is solely the president’s fault.
“It’s another case of them pointing fingers rather than doing their job,” he said.
Both of Texas’ senators, who were mentioned at the picket, did not comment on the event.
“All we want is for them to do the job we sent them to do,” Eliano said. “We’re going to remember this come Election Day. ... It’s not about Republicans; it’s not about Democrats. It’s who has a hand in this mess and they need to be gone.”