Defense furlough days reduced

MCLB-ALBANY, Ga. — The 3,000 workers on Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany recently impacted by furloughs will not feel as much of a financial sting as they initially expected.

Following an announcement from U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel Tuesday that he was reducing the amount of unpaid leave that civilian employees were ordered take this year from 11 to six in an effort to limit the pain from across-the-board budget cuts, there were sighs of relieve amongst those aboard the base — including its leader.

"Our civilian employees are an integral component of Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany and all of our tenant organizations," Col. Don Davis, commanding officer of MCLB-Albany, said Tuesday. "Since July 8, our civilians have been feeling the financial burden of the secretary of defense-mandated furloughs. Initially, civilian employees were to be furloughed up to 11 days; however, today's announcement by Secretary Hagel has indicated those unpaid furlough days have been decreased from 11 to six.

"We are extremely pleased that our civilian leaders in Washington, D.C., have found a way to reduce the number of furlough days, whereby reducing the financial impact to our civilian workforce. Restoring our civilian workers to a full-work status sooner enables us to focus on fully supporting our operating forces and ensuring our Marine Corps remains the world's premier force in readiness."

For most employees on the installation impacted by the weekly furloughs, this means they will resume their normal schedules by the end of the month. The furloughs were initially expected to last through September.

In a news release issued Tuesday, Hagel said that when the announcement was made to impose 11 furlough days, a commitment was also made to do everything possible to find money to reduce furlough days for impacted personnel. The most recent development in this comes as Department of Defense managers make final decisions to ensure the $37 billion spending cuts mandated by sequestration are made while also limiting damage to military readiness and work force during what the the defense secretary has described as a "volatile and uncertain" budget cycle.

"... As we look ahead to fiscal year 2014, less than two months away, the Department of Defense still faces major fiscal challenges. If Congress does not change the Budget Control Act, DoD will be forced to cut an additional $52 billion in FY 2014, starting on Oct. 1," Hagel said in a statement. "This represents 40 percent more than this year's sequester-mandated cuts of $37 billion. Facing this uncertainty, I cannot be sure what will happen next year, but I want to assure our civilian employees that we will do everything possible to avoid more furloughs.

"I want to thank our civilian workers for their patience and dedication during these extraordinarily tough times, and for their continued service and devotion to our department and our country. I know how difficult this has been for all of you and your families. Your contribution to national security is invaluable, and I look forward to one day putting this difficult period behind us. Thank you and God Bless you and your families."

U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, R-Tifton, released a statement on the decision to cut the furlough days.

"On behalf of our neighbors currently suffering due to furloughs, I'm pleased the Defense Department has found savings in other areas of the budget to reduce the number of furlough days for civilian workers," Scott said. "I voted against sequestration, and have repeatedly urged Defense officials in hearings and meetings to seek alternatives within the mandated defense cuts to end furloughs.

"With our national security and jobs in Georgia at stake, the critical task before Congress is to find a permanent solution to replace these defense cuts with sensible budget solutions."