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Fort Drum outlines civilian worker furlough day distribution, impact

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FORT DRUM — About a month before Department of Defense-wide furlough days go into effect for its civilian workers, the post is outlining their distribution and how services will be affected.

The 11 furlough days will be on Fridays after July 8 and are scheduled to go through the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30. Notices were first sent by the post to civilian workers Tuesday and will be distributed through next Tuesday.

On Wednesday afternoon, Col. Gary A. Rosenberg, garrison commander, said the goal for the post’s leadership was to give as much notice as possible to create predictability for both workers and customers.

“If we know what’s happening, we can plan around it,” he said.

Col. Rosenberg estimated about 1,800 workers would face furloughs. The only civilian employees exempt are nonappropriated fund employees, appropriated fund child care workers and employees working in sexual harassment and assault response and prevention programs.

During a town hall meeting on post Tuesday, Col. Rosenberg presented a slide show identifying several offices that will be closed or offer reduced services or hours on Fridays. Civilian medical employees will have their furlough days split on Fridays and Mondays, keeping the post’s clinics open with reduced capacity on those two days. The post commissary, normally closed Mondays, will also close Tuesdays.

The furlough days have been discussed by military leaders for months, with the department reducing the count from 22 to 11 days on May 14.

Jeffrey W. Zuhlke, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 400, said the looming cuts have created a large amount of angst for employees, many of whom live paycheck to paycheck.

“This is a large sum of money for these people,” he said. “This could destroy them.”

Even worse, Mr. Zuhlke said, some employees have security clearances that hinge on their financial security.

“It creates a whole line of headaches down the road,” he said.

Col. Rosenberg said he empathized with the civilian employees and said financial assistance could be made available.

“We’re all in this together,” he said. “It impacts all of us.”

Another concern about the furloughs is their effect on military operations. Col. Rosenberg said he had heard concerns from soldiers about how the temporary layoffs would affect their training, with many of the post’s ranges operated by civilian employees.

“They want to know, ‘What can I do, what can’t I do on Fridays?’” he said.

At an appearance in Clayton, Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, said that the reduction to 11 furlough days was likely the best that could be done, but that he hoped the civilian furloughs could be ended in the 2014 fiscal year.

“The civilian workforce is integral to the accomplishment of the mission,” he said, “and I wish that I could provide them a clear path to a solution. Unfortunately, I can’t do that by myself. I need the support of the other members of Congress.”

A slide show outlining the local furlough days can be found at www.slideshare.net/slideshow/embed_code/22133808.

Times staff writer Jaegun Lee contributed to this report.

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