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‘Sequester’ impacts Fort Campbell

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (AP) — Fort Campbell’s garrison commander said on Thursday, Feb. 28 that the installation’s 8,000 civilian employees could face up to 22 unpaid days off this year.

Col. David L. “Buck” Dellinger told reporters that the unpaid days are needed to offset at least $55 million in budget cuts scheduled to hit the home of the 101st Airborne Division, one of the most heavily deployed Army units since 9/11.

Fort Campbell’s leaders are constantly revising budget plans as they prepare for the local impact of $46 billion in overall Pentagon reductions scheduled to start taking effect on Friday, March 1, Dellinger said.

The automatic cuts would drain $85 billion from the federal government’s budget over the coming seven months, imposing an 8 percent cut on the Pentagon and a 5 percent cut on domestic agencies. The cuts are the resulting failure of a 2011 deficit “super committee” to reach agreement. The original idea was that the threat of the “sequester” would drive Democrats and Republicans to strike a budget bargain.

Dellinger said soldiers’ pay won’t be directly affected, but they are going to feel the cuts when programs and services they rely on are reduced to shorter hours or as they face longer wait times at offices. Soldiers who are not scheduled to deploy in the coming year will likely not train as much as they have in the past so military leaders can focus on the deploying units, he said.

Funding for uniformed personnel and combat operations is exempt from the cuts, so the furloughs are going to be largely felt by the civilians who work for the military in support roles. The Defense Department has said it expects to furlough 800,000 civilian workers for 22 days each, spread across more than five months, which would mean a 20 percent pay cut over that period. The Pentagon also plans to lay off as many as 46,000 temporary and contract employees.

The furloughs would include everyone from custodians to school teachers at Fort Campbell, Dellinger said, and only a few exceptions will be made for staff members who are deemed critical to health and safety. Dellinger explained that employees have to be given at least 30 days’ notice before the furloughs can start, but he said there was no set date for those notices to go out, although sooner would be better than later.

The budget for maintenance on facilities was cut from $62 million to $28 million, requiring officials to defer even critical maintenance projects, Dellinger said.

Dellinger noted that the installation serves many more than just the 31,000 active-duty soldiers and 8,000 employees. Tens of thousands of family members and military retirees depend on services and programs at the installation.

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