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Military budget cuts could mean reductions in civilian workers at Fort Drum

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FORT DRUM — Reductions to personnel in the Department of Defense’s newest budget may spell cuts to the number of workers at the post.

The DOD is expected to cut about 6,000 of its approximately 755,000 civilian personnel as a part of the new 2015 fiscal year budget, to reduce the workforce to about 749,000, a cut of about 1 percent. Of that reduction, 4,400 civilian workers would come from the Army’s operations.

The impact of such a cut locally is not immediately clear. Jeffrey W. Zuhlke, president of American Federation of Government Employees Local 400 on post, said he had not heard an exact number of what the new budget would mean locally. However, he said the figures were probably low estimates, with larger cuts likely in the future.

The prospect of more cuts, he said, would be damaging to a post workforce he described as “bare bones.” Already, he said, open positions take several months to be filled by new employees.

“We continually do more with less, and we’re rapidly reaching the breaking point,” Mr. Zuhlke said. “The stress on the workforce continues to ramp up.”

The short-term cuts are a part of a plan discussed earlier this week by Robert F. Hale, Defense Department comptroller, to cut the number of civilian workers by about 5 percent by fiscal year 2019.

Mr. Zuhlke said he had heard early planning for cuts of about 180 workers in the time frame between now and 2019.

Between the prospect of lost jobs and minimal pay raises, he said he did not think most federal workers were “feeling very appreciated.”

“This concept of shared sacrifice, it’s about time it’s shared with somebody else,” Mr. Zuhlke said.

Rep. William L. Owens, in a statement, said he would further research how cuts to military budgets could affect the post’s civilian workforce.

“Clearly civilian personnel are critical to the mission at Fort Drum. It is important to remember that this is just a proposal and we do not know what this would mean for Fort Drum,” Mr. Owens said. “As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I will be looking for more information on how the Army proposes to implement any potential reduction in civilian personnel strength.”

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