Fort Hood Sentinel
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TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 2015  06:09:24 PM

Furlough coming: Installation prepared to function, mitigate impact in coming weeks

Email   Print   Share By Andy Bird, Deputy Garrison Commander
June 25, 2013 | Editorial
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The Rivers Building, home to all of the ACS programs, will continue to operate during the furlough, but officials request patience as some delays in services are anticipated. Daniel Cernero, Sentinel Staff
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James Butler, the site security manager inside the ID card office of the Copeland Center, assists a Soldier Monday morning. Officials anticipate longer waiting times for service at the center during the furlough. Daniel Cernero, Sentinel Staff
Editor’s note: The 11-day discontinuous furlough period begins for Department of Army civilians at Fort Hood July 8. With furlough looming, the Sentinel asked Fort Hood Deputy Garrison Commander Andy Bird his thoughts regarding the impact on the Fort Hood workforce and the Fort Hood community as a whole. While some of his answers are quoted in our Living Section cover story on page C1, we’re providing his complete answers to our questions here.

In advance of the impending furlough period, the Garrison Command hosted numerous town halls with the entire workforce. We have been totally upfront and honest about what will happen, and we’ve done what we could do from the command to mitigate as many impacts on installations services as possible.

The garrison commander was given the authority as the deciding official to reduce furlough hours to ensure we can support all health, safety and protection of property, as well as those services that support deploying units’ mission-critical readiness. As a result of that, we are

able to mitigate any impact on our firefighting capabilities by reducing furlough hours for over 80 firefighters. We also were able to reduce furlough hours for over 25 air traffic controllers in support of mission readiness for deploying units. Reducing ATC furlough hours will prevent us from stopping live firing on our ranges, unmanned aerial surveillance aircraft night flights, along with deployment/redeployment and manning of our primary crash-alarm support system.

Tough on workforce

The furlough will be tough on everyone. We informed the workforce back in February about the potential for furlough and advised them to think and do what they can and set aside funds “just in case.” This is easily said, but in reality, hard to do.

Many folks live month-to-month and do the best they can to keep their household solvent. Government employment has always been a secure career. It still is. Sequester cut the Department of Defense budget by $37 billion dollars. Secretary of Defense also told us he had an additional $20-billion-dollar cut in dollars that are used for civilian pay. He made the tough decision to furlough, as stated in his May 16 memo, to ensure our troops at war had all the resources they needed. This is what resulted in the 11-week, 88-hour reduction in the civilian workforce pay.

At least we don’t have to do the original 22-week furlough (period).

No overtime, either

The garrison is critically short manpower in some areas. This is a result of the multi-year hiring freeze that all DoD commands have been doing since 2011. For us, we are in our third year of reductions. Coupled with that is our excess employees. They are a result in changes to our workforce authorizations where some positions are no longer authorized positions.

We have done everything possible to place these excess in other skill sets and have also offered early separations and retirements for the past three years. We have done all constructive human resource tools possible, which has left us with our final option, a Reduction in Force, or RIF.

RIF plan submitted

We submitted this plan to our higher headquarters in early April. This plan has to go before Congress for review/approval and we hope to get that done by mid-November. The RIF will reduce our over-hire/excess emplo-

yees and allow us to offset that with new hires for the right positions.

This has been a long road as it takes time to reduce the workforce. On average, the garrison works two-three man years of overtime a year; simply stated, some employees are doing double or triple the work due to the shortfalls. It’s a given that we will always pay people for the work they do, and overtime is the way we can sustain those mission-critical services.

The challenge is, after so many years of this, it’s having a wearing effect on the health and well-being of our phenomenal professional civilians who are so dedicated they will never say “no” to getting the mission done.

For the leadership, we do the best we can to keep a balance of missions with the caring for our great workforce. This means we may have to say no to some things and do the best we can to keep the critical services at peak levels. We are the Great Place because of our great workforce; we must do the best we can to preserve their health while balancing mission success.

Mostly transparent

For the most part, (the furlough impact) will be transparent to the community and its Soldiers/Families. There will be no impact to our protection of life, health, safety and security of services on post. This also includes the bulk of our Soldier and Family programs.

You may see some services that will be impacted, but only in the time it takes to get it done. Less people in an already reduced capacity will do the best they can. We are also adjusting hours due to furlough. We will be publishing those schedules to the community. (See page C6 for complete list of Garrison Command activities/organizations).

My best advice for the community is to ask for their patience and understanding; we are doing the best we can within the capabilities we have during this furlough period (July-September). For the most part, services will get done – it will just take a bit longer.
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