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American Forces Press Service

Navy, Army Secretaries Warn of Possible Furloughs, Constraints

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 14, 2007 – Navy Secretary Donald C. Winter and Army Secretary Pete Geren sent letters to installation commanders Dec. 12 telling them to prepare for possible furloughs due to a lack of funding for the global war on terror.

The secretaries alerted commanders to prepare to scale down operations if necessary.

“Unless Congress provides supplemental funding for war-related operations, it will become necessary for you to furlough civilian employees at your base or installation,” Winter wrote. “You must follow all applicable legal, regulatory, and labor relations contractual requirements pertaining to furloughs, including requirements for advance notification to those affected.”

Winter directed Navy and Marine commanders to complete the detailed planning necessary to reduce operations at their facility and furlough certain employees if and when directed. He noted that no furloughs are authorized at this time.

He added that Marine Corps operations and maintenance funding likely is expected to remain sufficient until mid-March 2008.

“However, absent additional funding, you must be prepared to furlough employees paid directly by funds appropriated to Operation and Maintenance,” he wrote. “That is why you must begin planning immediately. The Commandant of the Marine Corps will provide additional implementation information as it becomes available.”

Winter vowed commitment to find a solution to the shortages. “I am personally committed to finding a solution to this problem,” he said. “We will do everything within our power to manage this most difficult of circumstances, and I remain hopeful for a solution.”

In his letter to Army commanders, Geren forecast that the Army’s operations and maintenance budget has sufficient funds to continue full operations until mid- to late-February.

“In late November, (Gen. Richard A. Cody, Army vice chief of staff) asked that you prepare plans to reduce operations due to the absence of (global war on terror) funding. I appreciate your prompt and thoughtful attention to our request,” Geren wrote. “Regrettably, our funding situation has not changed, so we must continue preparations for implementation of these plans.”

Geren said commanders soon will receive specific guidance through human resources channels on furlough notification procedures and engagement with any bargaining entities that may act on behalf of affected employees. Only civilians paid directly by funds appropriated to the Army’s operations and maintenance fund will be affected, he said.

The Army secretary said Cody will provide additional instructions on how to determine which employees are exempt from furlough. Geren said the standards for exemptions may not encompass the full breadth of employees identified as “mission essential” in contingency budget plans.

“I know you must have your full civilian workforce in place to accomplish your mission so we are taking these steps to implement a furlough as a last resort,” he continued. “I am committed to finding a solution to this problem and remain hopeful we will do so.”

In accordance with statutory provisions, the Defense Department is required to report potential furloughs within the Army, Marine Corps and combatant commands to Congress. The memoranda by Winter and Geren were issued in conjunction with a letter by Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England sent Dec. 7 to Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives.

“The furlough will negatively affect our ability to execute base operations and training activities,” England wrote. “More importantly, it will affect the critical support our civilian employees provide to our warfighters -- support which is key to our current operations in both Afghanistan and Iraq.”

England lamented the possibility that civilian furloughs and reduced military capabilities could result from budget shortfalls.

“While these actions will be detrimental to the nation, there are no other viable alternatives without additional Congressional funding,” he said. “Your support in providing these needed funds would be greatly appreciated.”

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