Communicating extensively with the community will help everyone plan for the effects of furloughs likely to begin here in July, the Fort Drum garrison leader said.
“We are continuously getting changes in, and we are always evaluating where we are and what the impact will be on Soldiers, Family Members and civilian employees,” said Col. Gary A. Rosenberg, Fort Drum garrison com-
mander. “It’s going to affect just about everything.”
At the moment, an estimated 1,800 civilians face 11 days of unpaid leave beginning in July and lasting through the fiscal year at the end of September. The furloughs, which will amount to roughly a 20-percent reduction in pay, have been scheduled for most employees every Friday during the three-month period.
Implementation of the expected furloughs will be no earlier than July 8. Notices began going out to civilian workers at Fort Drum during the last week of May.
Leaders selected Fridays to minimize the impact on Soldiers and Families while also providing some “predictability” for civilian employees, Rosenberg said. Throughout the process, employees have been advised to plan for the worse and hope for the best.
“Pretty much everything will be impacted at some level or another,” he said. “That’s why we tried to get out in front of this, letting people know what is going on and when they can expect those furlough days to be. Then they can make appropriate plans for their own personal situation.”
Rosenberg pointed out that “furlough Fridays” will considerably affect installation services provided to Soldiers and Families, but that DOD civilians and their families bear the heaviest burden.
“As hard as the impact is going to be on our Soldiers and Family Members, it’s also going to be very difficult on the employees themselves,” he said. “If you are living paycheck to paycheck, it’s very difficult to imagine a 20-percent cut in pay.”
Some civilian workers at Fort Drum will be exempt from the furloughs, including Nonappropriated Fund employees working in child care centers and throughout Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation activities.
Other employees unaffected by the furlough include civilians deployed to combat zones and civilians necessary for the protection of life and property, such as emergency services personnel and some civilian workers with the U.S. Army Medical Department Activity. (See MEDDAC story on page A5.)
Garrison leaders held an after-hours town hall event in late May and a second one last week to discuss the impact of furloughs on Fort Drum services and programs.
A slide show presented by Rosenberg at the Commons detailed each activity on post whose office will close or reduce hours and services on Fridays during a furlough. (See sidebar titled “Programs and services change under potential furlough” for more details.)
The most notable changes at Fort Drum in the event of a furlough will include the closure of the Black River Gate and 45th Infantry Gate on Fridays; the closure of the commissary on Tuesdays, instead of Fridays and in addition to Mondays; and the splitting of furlough days between Fridays and Mondays for civilian medical workers, which will keep clinics open on those two days at reduced capacity.
Both town halls were broadcast live over the 10th Mountain Division’s Facebook page, where participants also could submit questions or respond to issues in real time. Individuals interested in seeing a recording of the last town hall can click the “Ustream Live” tab at https://www.face-book.com/drum.10thmountain
As civilians see their hours reduced, many programs and services on Fort Drum will be affected, including one of the installation’s primary functions — training.
“And that’s a critical point,” Rosenberg said. “We are still at war (in Afghanistan) here at Fort Drum and in the 10th Mountain Division (LI). We have three brigades that are deployed right now. The remainder of the division will most likely deploy some time later this year or early next year.
“We have an obligation to make sure they are properly trained and able to deploy,” he continued. “Fortunately, as the number of furlough days gradually dropped from 22 to 11, we have had additional time to adjust our training schedule so that we can work around those Fridays that we will be off.
“Through proper planning, we have been successful at trying to mitigate that impact on training,” he added.