Fort Bragg’s civilian employees who have had to take a weekly unpaid day off from work since July 8, are getting some relief, as the total number of Department of Defense directed furlough days has been reduced from 11 to six, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced this week.

“When I announced my decision on May 14, to impose furloughs of up to 11 days on civilian employees, I also said we would do everything possible to find the money to reduce furlough days for our people,” said Hagel.  ”As part of that effort at the Department of Defense, I am announcing today that thanks to the DoD’s efforts to identify savings and help from Congress, we will reduce the total number of furlough days for DoD civilian employees from 11 to six.”

Beginning the week of Aug. 19, Fort Bragg’s civilian employees will return to their normal work weeks.  Additionally, both of the installation’s commissaries will again be open on Mondays as they were before their furloughs began.

Fort Bragg’s schools got even better news this week.  As a result of Secretary Hagel’s decision, Department of Defense Education Activities teachers will no longer be furloughed for any of the expected five days this fall.  School administrators and other full-year employees will complete their required six furloughs days next week like other federal employees.

“I’m very pleased that our teachers and support staff will be in the classrooms and schools so that we will be able to provide the world-class education that our military children and their Families rightly deserve,” said Dr. Emily Marsh, Fort Bragg Schools superintendent.

Due to the furlough, a number of services were reduced as most of Fort Bragg was closed on Fridays.  Services are expected to begin returning to their normal pre-furlough schedules but customers should not expect an immediate return to full service.

“The furloughs caused many of our services to become back logged because our workforce only had four days in which to do five’s days worth of work”, said Col. Jeffrey M. Sanborn, Fort Bragg Garrison commander.  “Though our civilian employees did yeoman’s work in meeting the needs of our customers, it will take some time to reduce our backlog and re-establish the responsiveness that our community expects and deserves.  I have said this many times before, but we really appreciate the quality of our federal employees here at Fort Bragg and the passion for service that they exhibit every day.  I am glad to say that starting about a week from now we can untie one of their hands from behind their backs and give them a full work week to provide the best service that they can, given our funding constraints.”

The reduction in furlough days for this fiscal year does not mean the civilian workforce may not face possible furloughs beginning in October.

“As we look ahead to fiscal year 2014, less than two months away, the Department of Defense still faces major fiscal challenges,” said Hagel.  “If Congress does not change the Budget Control Act, DOD will be forced to cut an additional $52 billion in FY 2014, starting on October 1. This represents 40 percent more than this year’s sequester-mandated cuts of $37 billion. Facing this uncertainty, I cannot be sure what will happen next year, but I want to assure our civilian employees that we will do everything possible to avoid more furloughs.”

“We know our civilian workforce and their Families faced many difficult decisions recently but regardless of the personal impact on them, they never lost their commitment to mission accomplishment,” Sanborn added.  “We did our best to work with them to reduce the furlough’s impact on them this summer and we will continue to work closely with them as we go forward.”

Likewise Hagel recognized the civilian work force’s dedication and the defense departments commitment to them.

“I want to thank our civilian workers for their patience and dedication during these extraordinarily tough times, and for their continued service and devotion to our department and our country. I know how difficult this has been for all of you and your Families. Your contribution to national security is invaluable, and I look forward to one day putting this difficult period behind us. Thank you and God bless you and your Families.”