Furlough days cut for Beaufort-area defense workers

Island Packet staff writer Casey Conley and Jeff Wilkinson of The (Columbia) State contributed to this reportApril 2, 2013 

The U.S. Department of Defense has knocked eight days off planned furloughs for hundreds of thousands of civilian workers across the nation, including more than 1,000 at Beaufort County's military installations.

The number of furlough days for fiscal year 2013 would drop from 22 to 14.

In addition, the beginning of those furloughs could be delayed from this month to mid- to late-June, the American Forces Press Service, the media arm of the Defense Department, reported Sunday.

Sue Partridge, who works at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island and leads the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1951, said her members are somewhat relieved.

"I think the way they keep putting (the furloughs) off, people are really hoping it won't happen," she said. "The later it is, the better the chances are that there will be another reduction in (furlough days), or maybe it will go away."

The union has about 350 members who work on Parris Island and at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort. Civilian workers at Naval Hospital Beaufort are represented by a separate union.

Partridge says more than 1,000 civilian workers and management at the three Beaufort County installations would be affected by the furloughs. She expects the 30-day notice of furloughs to go out in mid- to late-May.

The reduction in furlough days would affect about 11,400 civilian workers on military bases throughout South Carolina and about 700,000 civilian employees across the country. Those workers include school teachers, doctors, nurses, food-service workers and security guards.

Attempts Tuesday to reach a spokesman at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort were unsuccessful.

Furlough notices are to go out next month, the news service said. Furloughs would occur over seven, two-week pay periods until the end of September, which is the end of the current fiscal year. Employees would be furloughed two days in each of those pay periods.

The furloughs are part of the automatic spending cuts that took effect March 1. The military's portion of the furloughs is expected to save about $2.5 billion this year.

The lower number of furlough days is due to military appropriations in a continuing budget resolution passed by Congress last week. The resolution averted about $6 billion in cuts that would have been required by automatic across-the-board reductions that are the result of last year's debt-ceiling fight.

The military faces $500 billion in across-the-board cuts over the next 10 years unless Congress and the president can find an alternative. Those cuts, called "sequester," are part of $1.2 trillion in cuts -- half to domestic spending, half to the military -- mandated after the debt-ceiling fight.

The cuts come on top of $487 billion in reductions already targeted by the Pentagon -- together equaling about 18 percent of the 2012 defense budget.

That's a scary figure in South Carolina, where eight bases and thousands of defense contractors pump $16 billion into the state's economy each year.

Related content

  1. FAA: Hilton Head Airport control tower closing April 7; Furloughs delayed, March 22, 2013
  2. Federal workers union protests in Beaufort over sequestration cuts, March 20, 2013

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