About 6,000 civilian employees at Fort Hood received official notice this week they will lose 20 percent of their pay from July to September.
Furlough notices for the Defense Department’s civilian employees began going out Tuesday and will continue through June 5, said Navy Cmdr. Leslie Hull-Ryde, Defense Department spokesperson for personnel and readiness.
In Texas, about 45,000 civilian employees are expected to be furloughed with an associated cost of about $149 million, she said. The furloughs begin July 8.
Between July and September, furloughed employees will not report to work one day a week for 11 weeks, down from the department’s original plan that 22 days would be necessary to make up for budget shortfalls. The Pentagon estimated the furloughs will save $1.8 billion.
Employees will likely have either a Monday or Friday off, said Cheryl Eliano, president of local chapter 1920 of the American Federation of Government Employees.
“I want (furloughed employees) to stay positive and know that we are doing everything we possibly can to stop this,” she said. “In the meantime, we’ll do what we have to do as the employees of Fort Hood and provide services to soldiers and family members as much as possible, but with the furlough it will be at a minimum.”
Of those furloughed at Fort Hood, 1,000 of the employees come from appropriated funds of U.S. Army Garrison-Fort Hood and the remaining 5,000 work throughout the post, including at the commissaries, the hospital and various administrative offices. Employees paid through nonappropriated funds, or money not provided by Congress, are not included in the furlough.
Exceptions were made for jobs impacting life, health and safety, Eliano said. Administrative jobs are the heaviest hit, Eliano said, but exceptions are still coming through late.
“We had asked for more than 200 exceptions to the furlough, including (child and youth services) employees, air traffic controllers and firefighters,” said Andy Bird, deputy garrison commander. “While only (child and youth services) is exempt, we have the ability to call back employees from furlough in instances affecting health, safety or the security of property.”
Programs such as recreation services, family programs through Army Community Service and the installation child care centers will be unaffected by the furlough of appropriated fund employees, Bird said, as these services and programs are staffed and operated by a nonappropriated fund workforce. But he said the impact of the furlough will still be widely felt both on and off the installation.
“Everyone is aware that Fort Hood has a $25 billion economic impact (here),” Bird said. “Our employees will lose roughly 9 percent (88 hours of 1,040 annually) of their pay throughout the furlough. That’s 5,000 people who won’t be spending as much money downtown.”
The 159 employees at the two commissaries on post will be impacted by furloughs, said Nancy O’Nell, spokesperson for the Defense Commissary Agency’s West and Pacific areas.
When furloughs begin in July, the Warrior Way Commissary will be closed on Monday, in addition to Wednesday, the day of the week that commissary is normally closed. The Clear Creek Commissary will close on Tuesday, in addition to Monday, the day it is normally closed.
“Patrons will be able to find the same selection of products at their store whenever their store is open,” O’Nell said.
Across the installation, Bird said the combination of the proposed furloughs, the recent loss of temporary and term employees due to budget cutbacks and the current hiring freeze on the installation creates “a perfect storm. We could see ‘mission critical’ become ‘mission failure’ at some point due to the lack of personnel within the next 60 to 90 days.”
Employees have seven days to appeal the furlough. “That’s important for the employee to do, so they can voice concerns,” Eliano said. “Some may feel it’s been unfair the way the selection was made as to who gets furloughed and who doesn’t, or flip-flopping days. They can appeal those decisions.”
She also encourages any furloughed employee to contact the union for assistance or resources.
“It’s going to all be all right,” Eliano said. “We’ll stay in the fight.”
Contact Rose L. Thayer at email@example.com or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary.