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Furloughs to hit 6,000-plus Kan. military workers

5/20/2013

By JOHN MILBURN

Associated Press

TOPEKA -- Kansas military officials are juggling schedules and changing plans to accommodate furloughs of more than 6,000 civilian employees because of federal budget cuts.

The staff to be idled starting this summer ranges from operations and logistics employees with the Kansas National Guard to instructors at the Army's Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth.

Scott Gibson, spokesman for Fort Leavenworth's Combined Arms Center, said the furloughs will affect about 2,600 employees on the post. It is likely to alter some course schedules as the staff juggles workloads, he said.

"We will rely on our active duty instructors where possible," Gibson said. "Leadership in those organizations will work diligently to ensure the impact to students is as minimal as possible."

Furloughs are necessary because of automatic federal spending cuts that took effect in March, which forced the Department of Defense to adjust staffing and operations. The cuts are in addition to already planned reductions that would cut about 80,000 soldiers by 2017.

Employees that are paid strictly from funds appropriated by Congress are being furloughed while those from other sources are exempt. For example, the furloughs do not apply to active duty soldiers or traditional members of the National Guard who report for drills each month.

The impact in Kansas also will be felt at Fort Riley, home to the Army's 1st Infantry Division and nearly 18,000 soldiers and their families.

Col. William Clark said furloughs at Fort Riley will start on July 19 and effect about 2,400 employees, or roughly one-third of the civilian workforce.

"We saw this action coming and have spent a lot of time planning for this requirement," Clark said. "There are a variety of different commands on Fort Riley, and we've worked together to form an integrated plan to accomplish this in a holistic manner."

Clark said that the reductions will be managed so as to limit the impact on health and safety, but other functions such as getting a new identification card may take longer. Ceremonies and special events also won't be scheduled on Fridays.

The furloughs will impact 54 percent of the full-time employees of the Kansas National Guard, including some 1,100 technician positions. Those individuals wear the uniform like other Guard members but are paid from federally appropriated funds which fall under the furlough requirements, said Maj. Gen. Lee Tafanelli, adjutant general for Kansas.

"We cannot cut those kinds of resources without having a significant impact on our services and capabilities," Tafanelli said. "This is going to have a big impact on our operational readiness."

He said "a good portion" of those being furloughed were in the maintenance field, including those who work on the flight line of the Kansas Air National Guard's 190th Air Refueling Wing at Forbes Field.

"It may not be visibly noticeable to the public at large because as you degrade readiness, it's not necessarily something that you see in a day-to-day change," Tafanelli said. "But over time those impacts will affect our operational readiness for our equipment fleet, and the skills and proficiencies that our soldiers and airmen have to maintain will be degraded."

The furloughs are in addition to the spending adjustments of between 9 percent and 15 percent that Tafanelli said the National Guard must make before Sept. 30.