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Details delay DOD furloughs

Military officials must wait for the details, wording of furlough notifications before sending them out

Published: 03:37PM March 28th, 2013

SAN ANTONIO — There’s no shortcut to make the pending Proposal of Notification Letter easier or quicker to produce.

Officials across the Army await the exact details and wording of the furlough communication to minimize confusion among employees.

Employees of the U.S. Army Installation Management Command are expected to receive their notification letters soon. Officials now estimate that furlough notices will go out on or about April 5, said Navy Cmdr. Leslie Hull-Ryde, a Pentagon spokesperson.

Since the continuing resolution passed March 21, officials have struggled to clarify impending furloughs and mitigate their impact on DOD civilians.

Before notifications can be made, human resource officials are expecting a signed memo from the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs Thomas R. Lamont. In that memo will come specific guidance for conducting the furlough process.

With civilian personnel all across the Army anticipating furloughs, approximately 27,000 IMCOM employees are waiting to find out if they, as individuals, are going into temporary non-duty and non-pay status. Those employees will be notified directly by their supervisors.

Once employees are notified, several things must be accomplished. They will first acknowledge in writing their receipt of notification. They will then have seven days to exercise their right to reply. Employees may appeal orally or in writing to the designated reply official.

Also, supervisors will inform employees of their exact furlough schedule. IMCOM is considering various methods to balance the work schedule, including a shortened four-day work week, but no decision has been made.

Finally, supervisors will distribute decision notification notices to employees to begin the furlough schedule. These subsequent letters are expected to go out the week ending April 19, in time for the following furlough week.

Then furloughs are expected to continue for 22 discontinuous days or one day per week for the remainder of the fiscal year. Employees may appeal the agency’s decision to the Merit System Protection Board within 30 days from the effective date of the furlough.

A furlough places an employee in a temporary non-duty and non-pay status. IMCOM is furloughing its employees as a result of the Budget Control Act passed Aug. 2, 2011. The act requires more than $487 billion in cuts from the defense base budget over 10 years, beginning in fiscal year 2013. These cuts are commonly referred to as the “sequester.”

IMCOM is taking other steps to help preserve financial resources during sequester. These include close scrutiny of 783 contracts across the IMCOM garrisons with a performance period starting in May or later. Contracts under review may be new awards or contracts with options scheduled for extension during this period.

Most of the contracts under review are municipal services contracts, which include pest control, refuse, custodial care and grounds maintenance services. To maintain fiscal goals during sequester, IMCOM must make decisions for the rest of fiscal 2013 into fiscal 2014; however, no enterprisewide contracting decisions have been made so far.

Active-duty, reserve and National Guard service members are exempt from furloughs.

While the furlough is the equivalent of an 8.5 percent annual reduction in pay, each employee will experience a 20 percent reduction during the last five months of fiscal 2013. IMCOM realizes and regrets this hardship on employees.

For those employees who are enrolled in the Thrift Savings Plan through payroll deductions, TSP offers some relief. Go to their website at https://www.tsp.gov/lifeevents/entering/enteringGovService.shtml and explore the non-pay status options.

While on furlough, there will be strict adherence to employee standards — for example, overtime and compensatory time are curtailed, and no employee will be allowed to volunteer services to their organization during the furlough. Tele-work and the use of government issued electronics, such as mobile phones, laptops or tablet computers, will not be permitted on furlough days.

During the furlough period, the accumulation of annual and sick leave will be slowed. Leave is earned each pay period depending upon the pay status of the employee and the number of hours worked. With fewer hours comes a proportional decrease in the accrual of leave hours.

Some scheduled annual leave during the furlough may be canceled by the commander to fulfill manpower shortages. Management will be looking closely at leave schedules to balance the demands of the mission. Employees are reminded to work closely with supervisors on leave schedules, especially around federal holidays. Employees considering part-time civilian employment should discuss it with their supervisors to meet ethics requirements.

While health benefits, flexible spending accounts, federal group life insurance, vision and dental plans, and federal long-term care plans are not impacted during this furlough period, the employee will still be responsible for the full premiums due for these benefits.

No decision has been made about termination of temporary and term employees.