On May 14, Department of Defense officials announced that more than 680,000 civilian employees, including about 1,400 here at Fort Bragg, will be furloughed for 11 days, until the end of the fiscal year in September, as the U.S. military looks to cut more than $37 billion from the Pentagon budget this year.
Locally, the furlough will result in a 20 percent monthly pay reduction for the area’s government employees.
Fort Bragg Garrison commander, Col. Jeffrey Sanborn spoke with the post’s civilian workforce Monday and Tuesday during town hall meetings at the Main Post Theater. The town halls were designed to explain the reduction in force and furlough procedures as well as to answer any questions they had.
Sanborn said the installation is facing reduction in force civilian personnel action, in which 41 Fort Bragg employees are expected to lose their jobs. These jobs that are targeted are considered to be surplus jobs in the barracks maintenance program, grounds maintenance and visual information. These positions must be eliminated by Nov. 15.
As for the furlough, Sanborn explained that the furlough days are set to begin the week of July 8. He said Fort Bragg’s plans call for appropriated funds employees to be off every Friday until Sept. 30, which marks the end of the fiscal year.
For the majority of Fort Bragg’s civilian workforce, that would mean that July 12 would be the first furlough day and Sept. 27 would mark the end point, pending the end of the U.S. government’s sequestration period.
Sanborn said that by designating Friday as the furlough day, visitors or customers to the various directorates will know not to show up to conduct business on Fridays.
“It’s important for us all to remember that we are a customer service-based operation,” he said. “There’s some suggestion out there that we should apply a more flexible solution set to accommodate all of your needs. I think there is some merit in that argument and we certainly stand by to meet, within reason, the needs of all of you.”
Sanborn added that furloughing on Fridays would help Fort Bragg achieve its goal of saving millions of dollars as the post could shut down many of its offices and buildings not in use, thus saving from $25,000 to $30,000 per day.
“This will be a rough time for you. We’re here for you. We’re going to be part of your solution set,” Sanborn said to the audience during the first meeting early Monday morning.
While Friday has been set as the day the garrison will close operations, emergency workers, such as firefighters will operate under what has been described as a “rolling furlough,” which means that they will alternate days to ensure emergency readiness. Fort Bragg’s teachers, who fall under the Department of Defense Education Activity, will be required to take a total of five furlough days, beginning in August.
“In addition, Womack has decided to close all of its outlying primary care clinics on Fridays,” Sanborn said.
DoD officials had originally planned to furlough employees for up to 22 days, but then reduced that number in March to 14, following passage of a final 2013 spending bill that provided more spending flexibility.
Sanborn pointed out that while the garrison, Womack Army Medical Center and the Fort Bragg schools have decided to close on Fridays, air traffic and range control, which maintains the post’s training areas, will furlough on Sundays.
Fort Bragg’s other entity, the Airborne and Special Operations Museum will furlough on Tuesdays, Sanborn added.
Many of the civilian employees in attendance expressed their frustration, but Sanborn reassured them that the post leadership would do its best to help them through the upcoming rough times.
“If we get to a point where we can settle on a furlough Friday methodology, which is our choice, we’ve always maintained the flexibility and obligation to take care of you,” Sanborn said. “So if you have unexpected Family emergencies or important events in your Families’ lives and you need a day off and it doesn’t correspond to a furlough day, it’s within our authority to accommodate that.”
As for the reduction in pay, Sanborn said leaders on post are already working with businesses in Fayetteville in an effort to give furloughed employees preference for part-time jobs.
“It could help ends meet, but it is still a work in progress,” he said.