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National Guard military technicians, civilians face furloughs

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Most National Guard military technicians and civilian employees can expect 11 furlough days before the end of the fiscal year, National Guard Bureau officials said Thursday.

The move comes after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel gave official notice Wednesday to begin furloughing Defense Department civilians starting July 8. The furloughs affect the entire Defense Department, including every branch and component of the armed forces.

The National Guard is the only part of the uniformed Army and Air Force in which Soldiers and Airmen are directly affected, because of the inclusion of military technicians in the furlough.

Because of other efforts to deal with budget cuts, only half of the 22 days originally envisioned as temporary layoffs will now be necessary, defense officials said. In a memo, Hagel said that he strongly prefers to end the furloughs early if the budget situation allows.

Active Guard and Reserve Citizen-Soldiers and -Airmen are not subject to furlough, said Army Gen. Frank Grass, the chief of the National Guard Bureau and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"My highest priority is that we in the National Guard leadership do everything in our power to minimize the impact of this on our most important asset, our people," Grass said.

National Guard civilian employees - including civilians who work on the National Guard Bureau Joint Staff, at the Army National Guard Readiness Center in Arlington, Va., and at the Air National Guard Readiness Center on Joint Base Andrews in Maryland - also are subject to furlough.

Hagel, Grass and his Joint Chiefs of Staff colleagues have said that furloughs will impact readiness across the services, already affected by budget cuts resulting from sequestration.

Many of the Defense Department's 800,000 civilian employees perform critical functions such as maintenance, intelligence, logistics, contracting and health care. Officials have expressed concern that furloughs will substantially harm the Defense Department's ability to reset and restore the force's full-spectrum combat capability after more than a decade of hard fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Grass has called sequestration potentially "devastating" to the Defense Department and the National Guard.
"The significant challenge of continued budget uncertainty and even greater sequestration cuts not only threatens National Guard readiness," Grass said, "but also our ability to protect the nation against both man-made threats and natural disasters."
Some 75 Army National Guard and 1,123 Air National Guard military technicians needed for alerts, firefighting, personnel recovery and other missions are excepted from the furlough.

Those subject to the furlough can expect to be furloughed for up to 11 days or 88 hours total between July and September, the last month of the fiscal year, Grass said.

Affected personnel should expect to receive written notices of furlough between May 28 and June 5.

"During the furlough period, every effort should be made to mitigate mission and readiness impacts, to the greatest extent possible, by controlling leave and absences for all National Guardsmen, Active Guard and Reserve and technicians alike," Grass said. "Affected technicians may not substitute paid leave or compensatory time for furlough time."

Guidance from National Guard officials further states that:
  • Furloughed technicians must not work from home or on-site, officially or unofficially, on furlough days.
  • Furloughs should be spread over a maximum number of pay periods, with regular work schedule technicians to be furloughed for generally eight hours per week for 11 weeks or may be taken during the time a technician is at Annual Training, reducing the time away from work to only one additional day.
  • Furloughs may not be scheduled solely on federal holidays.
  • Furloughs should not be scheduled during temporary duty or TDYs.
"Civilians and military technicians ... provide day-to-day maintenance and training of Soldiers and Airmen in the states and territories," Grass has said. "One potential readiness impact is a decrease in response time and capabilities to respond to fires, floods and defense support of civil authorities events in the homeland.