The Great Bend Kansas National Guard armory should escape unscathed the round of federally mandated National Guard furloughs announced Tuesday by U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, said Sharon Watson with the KNG Public Affairs Office.
The furloughs, released in a Defense Department memo issued by Hagel, are aimed at managing the budgetary shortfalls facing the military, said Maj. Gen. Lee Tafanelli, state adjutant general. “Department of Defense has directed that we institute furloughs of up to 11 days for some of our federally-funded work force.”
The statewide, Guard-wide furloughs will affect approximately 1,100 KNG full-time employees, or 54 percent of the total full-time work force, resulting in a 20 percent pay cut starting no sooner than July 8.
However, the forced leaves impact predominately “federal technicians,” Watson said. These are full-time uniformed or civilian personnel who, for the most part, perform administrative or logistical jobs.
The other classification of Guard employees are “active duty guard and reserve” positions. Watson said these are guardsmen who also full time, but are on call for active duty at all times.
Both technicians and reservists can be deployed, Watson said.
There are no federal technicians stationed at Great Bend, Watson said. Most of these techs are stationed at Salina, Topeka and Wichita.
There are two units based at the Great Bend armory. They are the E-Tab 161 FA Target Acquisition Battery and 731st Transportation Company.
The two units may be headquartered in Great Bend, but they draw members from all over the state. These “citizen soldiers” are part-time, Watson said, and will not be furloughed.
Some Kansas KNG civilian workers will also be furloughed.
None the less, “these cuts will affect the readiness of our overall force and will cause difficulty and hardship for our Kansas National Guardsmen and federal civilians,” Tafanelli said.
“The individuals affected provide administration, operational and logistical support to the Kansas National Guard and Adjutant General’s Department,” Tafanelli noted. “We cannot cut those kinds of resources without having a significant impact on our services and capabilities.”
The furloughs are scheduled to continue through Sept. 30 unless Department of Defense officials further reduce the number of weeks.
“We will do whatever we can to assist our guardsmen and staff during this time including connecting them with appropriate resources, conducting town hall meetings to answer questions, and keeping them informed throughout the entire process,” Tafanelli said.
After weeks of debate and number-crunching, the Defense Department announced plans Tuesday to furlough about 680,000 of its civilian employees for 11 days through the end of this fiscal year, allowing only limited exceptions for the military to avoid or reduce the unpaid days off.
Hagel called the decision “an unpleasant set of choices” between furloughing workers or cutting training and flight operations.
The furlough notices are expected to begin going out May 28, and workers will have several days to respond or seek appeals. The unpaid days off would begin no sooner than July 8, according to the memo. Officials said the furloughs will save the department about $1.8 billion.
“I understand that the decision to impose furloughs imposes financial burdens on our valued employees, harms overall morale and corrodes the long-term ability of the department to carry out the national defense mission,” Hagel said in the memo. “I deeply regret this decision.”