Civilian furloughs to hit hard; also, will you lose
February 21, 2013
Most of 800,000 Department of Defense
civilian employees will see their workweeks shortened and their pay cut
by 20 percent from late April through September, if Congress, as now
expected, fails to stop $46 billion in indiscriminate defense budget
cuts set to take effect March 1.
With lawmakers on a nine-day
President’s Day recess, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta
officially notified Congress Feb. 20 of the department’s
intent to furlough the "vast
majority" of its civilian workers. This, he said, will be necessary
if Republicans and Democrats continue to refuse to negotiate a
debt-reduction deal to defuse or delay
the "sequestration" budget bomb built
into the 2011 Budget Control Act.
The furloughs would capture about $5
billion of needed savings but would hit overall readiness along with
other plans to cut stateside base operations, reduce military training
except for next-to-deploy units, delay maintenance of ships, aircraft,
vehicles and facilities, suspend many scheduled ship deployments and
make deep cuts in aircraft flying hours.
starts a 45-day clock required by law to begin the massive furlough. It
gives the services and defense agencies time to recommend individuals or
categories of employees for exemption from the furlough, which can mean
a total of 22 days’unpaid leave
through Sept. 30
Civilians working in combat zones will
be exempt as will employees needed to maintain safety of life and
property at defense facilities. Exemptions are expected for some
civilians working intelligence too.
Also to be exempt will be 50,000
foreign nationals who work on U.S. bases overseas under status of forces
agreements with host countries. Exempt by law are all non-appropriated
fund employees who work in base exchanges or who run military morale,
welfare and reaction activities.
Most commissary employees would not be
exempt, however, because their wages are paid with tax dollars. So base
grocery store hours and some other family support program could be cut
if sequestration occurs.
By mid-March, employees not exempt will
get individual notices of likely furlough, to start in 30 day s. They
will have one week to appeal that decision to the federal Merit Systems
Protection Board. So the first Defense civilians won’t
see their work hours cut until late April.
"The effects of sequestration and the continuing [budget]
resolution on our military personnel will be devastating. But on our
civilians, it will be catastrophic," warned Jessica
Lynn Wright, acting under secretary of defense for personnel and
"These critical members of our workforce," added
Wright, maintain and repair tanks, aircraft and ships, teach in military
schools, operate day care centers and are 40 percent of staff in base
hospital and clinics.
"They take care of our wounded warriors. They provide
services and programs such as sexual assault prevention and suicide
prevention, just to name a few," she
A 20-percent pay cut for five
months "won't only be felt by each employee," Wright added, but
also by nearby communities.
"While civilians will experience the impact directly to
their wallets, our service members, retirees and families will clearly
feel the effect of these actions. If sequestration is not averted, the
associated furloughs will impact our war fighters, our veterans and our
family members in untold ways."
At the same Pentagon press conference
Wednesday, Robert F. Hale, the department’s chief
financial officer, urged Congress to pass a "balanced"
deficit reduction package to "de-trigger
sequestration" and also to pass a fiscal 2013 defense
appropriation bill to replace a continuing budget resolution which has
frozen defense spending below fiscal 2012 levels.
Hale dismissed the idea that Congress
only needs to give Defense officials flexibility to rebalance billions
of dollars between budget accounts.
don't think it would help that much this far into the fiscal
year," Hale said. "And if it makes
sequestration more likely, to either occur or persist, I think it's a
bad deal, the flexibility."
Hale warned that if sequestration is
triggered and stays in effect into fiscal 2014 and beyond, furloughs
this year would turn into job losses and into deeper military personnel
cuts, forcing leaders to draft a new defense strategy that would
recognize reduced capabilities and a smaller force.
ROLLBACK --TRICARE Management Activity has a new online tool
for retirees under age 65 and surviving spouses to verify if their Prime
network will end Oct. 1, forcing them to use TRICARE
With the new fiscal year, managed care
networks operating beyond 40 miles of military treatment facilities or
base closure sites will be halted under next-generation TRICARE support
contracts. The change, to impact 171,000 beneficiaries, is intended to
cut TRICARE costs for taxpayers.
At the website http://www.tricare.mil/psazip, TRICARE users can type in their zip code and
learn whether their Prime service area will exist after Sept. 30. They
also can find contact information for contractors and can sign up for
email alerts on additional changes planned to Prime service
Of the three TRICARE regions in the
United States, the South will be most heavily impacted by rollback of
managed care networks. The contractor there, Humana, now offers Prime
everywhere across Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky (Fort
Campbell area only), Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina,
Tennessee and Texas (excluding the El Paso area). Effective Oct. 1,
Humana’s networks will shrink to those within 40 miles of a
military treatment facility or of a base-closing site.
In North Region, military managed care
for under-65 retirees and survivors will end in these areas:
Springfield, Mass. (into Connecticutt); Kankakee, Ill.; Gary , Ind.;
Auburn, Mich.; St Louis , Mo.; Charlotte, Greenville, Raleigh/Durham,
Wilmington and Winston-Salem-Greensboro, N.C; Akron and Cincinnati,
Ohio; Pittsburgh, Pa. and Milwaukee, Wis.
In West Region, Prime networks will end
in: Des Moines, Iowa; Minneapolis, Miss., Springfield, Mo.; Eugene,
Medford, Portland and Salem, Ore.; Portland and Yakima, Wash, and the
Outer Islands of Hawaii.
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