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Civilian furloughs, job cuts could continue at Department of Defense

By Matt Tomsic
Published July 17, 2013

Fiscal year 2014 could bring more civilian furloughs and job cuts at the Department of Defense if sequestration continues, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said today at Joint Base Charleston.

“If we take a $52 billion further cut, of course there will be a significant impact to our people,” Hagel said during a town hall meeting with civilian employees. “There is no other conclusion you can draw.”

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel visited Joint Base Charleston today. (Photo/Matt Tomsic)
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel visited Joint Base Charleston today. (Photo/Matt Tomsic)
Hagel toured parts of Joint Base Charleston and met with service members, who briefed him on their roles in the Air Force. The stop was part of a three-day trip visiting military installations in the Southeast. Hagel left Charleston mid-day and flew to Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, N.C.

After the tour, Hagel answered questions from a handful of the more than 300 civilian employees who attended the town hall on the base.

Hagel said the Budget and Control Act of 2011 mandated a $487 billion cut to the Department of Defense during the next 10 years. The act also included sequestration as a trigger to spur Congress to enact deficit reduction legislation. Congress failed to do so, and sequestration kicked in, bringing an additional $37 billion cut to the Department of Defense this year. If sequestration continues, a $52 billion cut hits the department in fiscal 2014, and roughly that amount will continue to be cut each year for the next several years, Hagel said.

“The reality is we’re heading into 2014 with the law being we’re going to take another $52 billion cut,” Hagel said, adding Congress or the president can change the law. “It’s unfair. It’s wrong to do this to families, to people who’ve given their lives to their country.”

Hagel said the Department of Defense used furloughs as a last resort and managed to reduce early estimates of furlough days from 22 to 11 days. The furloughs affect more than 2,600 employees at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic in Charleston; another 65 employees at the Army Corps of Engineers Charleston District, which has locations throughout the state; and 1,400 employees serving the Air Force at Joint Base Charleston. The furloughs will last through September, and civilians have begun taking one unpaid day off each week.

Hagel said he knows the department is at risk of losing civilian skillsets, and that concern, among others, has led to the exemption of 150,000 out of the department’s total civilian workforce of 800,000. In Charleston, exemptions include Army Corps employees who are working on the Charleston Harbor deepening project.

“Sequestration is a mindless, irresponsible process,” Hagel said. “You know it. I know it, and I’m hoping our leaders in Washington will get that and come to some policy resolution.”

Reach Matt Tomsic at 843-849-3144.

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