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Government shutdown hits Kansas Army posts

10/2/2013

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- Kansas military installations curtailed some services Wednesday, including by closing post commissaries, as the partial federal government shutdown took effect.

Maj. Martin O'Donnell, spokesman for the 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, said the impact initially on the northeast Kansas post hasn't been too bad, though the effects will be felt the longer the shutdown lasts. Fort Riley is home to the 1st Infantry Division and about 18,000 soldiers.

About 1,000 civilian employees at Fort Riley were put on emergency furlough, though functions related to the life, health and safety of soldiers and their families are still working. The post commissary was shuttered and the museum will be open only on weekends.

"I don't want downplay anything," O'Donnell said, "but maybe some of the lesser services that people don't utilize frequently would be most impacted."

At Fort Leavenworth, 2,300 civilian employees were sent home, leaving 300 on the job. Classes were still being held at the Army's Command and General Staff College, and the furloughs have no impact on security at the post's two military prisons.

O'Donnell said closing the commissary means soldiers and their families must either purchase food items at Army/Air Force Exchange Services locations, which don't have as many items, or go to Junction City or Manhattan to do their shopping.

Thousands of Kansas civilian military employees already had to take administrative furloughs one day a week from July through September as a result of automatic federal budget cuts that took effect in March. O'Donnell said the difference now is that instead of offices being juggled to handle one day of idling, entire departments are closed or operating five days a week at reduced staffing.

"These employees have had to go through a lot of hardship already. They didn't do anything. We didn't start it," he said. "There is a guilt that they are there and others in the office are out and no longer receiving a paycheck."

O'Donnell said the impact will extend outside the military installations as civilian employees have fewer dollars to spend.

"It's not going to be overnight, but it will be felt in the local economy and in readiness," he said.

Training is still going on at Fort Riley, but units were advised the ranges may not be fully staffed, limiting activities and causing delays.