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More than half of Fort Drum civilian employees could be excepted from government shutdown furloughs


FORT DRUM — Even without a budget deal to keep the federal government running, civilian employees will show up for work on post at their regular time this morning.

Unless the shutdown is averted, many of them will be sent home within four hours. However, the extensive deployment operations on post may mean a majority of civilian workers could be excepted from the furloughs. Employees will receive their formal notice of whether they have been furloughed when they come in.

“The ax will fall, and we’ll go from there,” said Jeffrey W. Zuhlke, president of American Federation of Government Employees Local 400.

On Monday afternoon, Mr. Zuhlke said the numbers he saw indicated about 65 percent of the approximately 1,200 union members, about 780 people, could be exempted. For employees not exempted, they will leave work within four hours of arrival, with the timetable set to allow for an orderly transfer of work until they can return.

Soldiers will remain on normal duty status even if a shutdown is in effect. President Obama signed legislation late Monday ensuring the military will be paid during any government shutdown.

Mr. Zuhlke said employees receiving the exception may not be paid for their work until Congress sorts out a budget bill.

For employees not exempted to be reimbursed for the pay lost to furloughs, Congress would have to pass separate legislation.

“With this Congress, the chances are pretty slim of that happening,” he said.

During a shutdown furlough, exemptions can be made for positions in firefighting, law enforcement, health care and physical security, along with personnel support, military operations and national security.

Mr. Zuhlke said the high number of exemptions was a result of mission requirements for the post, and the large number of soldiers both returning from and heading to Afghanistan.

The post is welcoming home thousands of soldiers from the 1st and 2nd Brigade Combat Teams, and the 3rd Brigade Combat Team is deploying from the post with about 2,000 personnel.

Less than 24 hours before the deadline, leadership of the post and defense officials at the Pentagon prepared for the worst.

Fort Drum on Monday morning released an email sent by Michael H. McKinnon, deputy garrison commander, to the Army’s Installation Management Command.

“These are difficult times; our workforce continues to carry a burden that is not commensurate with the high level of service you have consistently provided to our soldiers and families here at Fort Drum,” Mr. McKinnon’s note read. “I am proud of how you’ve all carried that burden to this point.”

In a message to DOD personnel, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the looming government shutdown meant “we are now in a moment of regrettable and avoidable uncertainty.”

Mr. Hagel’s message also thanked civilian employees for their efforts.

“The furloughs are in no way a reflection of the importance of your work, the hard effort you put forth every day, or your dedicated service to our department and our nation.”

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