|By Robert Dozier, Installation Management Command
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas — Army civilian personnel are bracing for the
impact of furloughs and changing financial priorities on their
organizations. Approximately 251,000 Department of the Army civilians
expect to be notified soon if they will be furloughed up to 22 days
starting in April.
In order to meet national security responsibilities, Installation
Management Command (IMCOM) is prioritizing readiness and programs based
on the Army strategy, while adjusting to the fiscal resources available.
Furloughs are a result of the Budget Control Act passed Aug. 2, 2011,
which requires more than $487 billion in cuts from the defense base
budget over 10 years, beginning in fiscal year 2013. A furlough places
an employee in a temporary non-duty and non-pay status.
The Department of Defense has notified Congress of its intent to
furlough most civilian employees up to 22 non-consecutive days — one day
per week until the end of the fiscal year. Active duty, reserve and
National Guard are exempt from furloughs.
How an individual employee or activity is affected by furloughs will be
subject to the command and the overall guidance of human resources and
Furloughs have the potential to impact approximately 27,000 IMCOM
employees. There may be some exceptions for those deployed in a combat
zone and those duties protect life, health and safety of our Soldiers
and their Families.
All employees who may be furloughed are entitled by law to a 30-day
notice before implementation. Notices are scheduled to go out between
March 18 and 22.
The financial burden of the furlough will be the equivalent of an 8.5
percent annual reduction in pay. However, a one-day-per-week furlough
during the last weeks of the fiscal year (from late April through
September) equates to a 20 percent reduction in pay during that time
Overtime and comp time are curtailed, and no employee will be allowed to
volunteer services during the furlough. Telework and the use of
government-issued electronics, such as BlackBerrys, laptops or iPads
will not be permitted on furlough days.
An additional burden at IMCOM will be the potential termination of
temporary and term employees. The permanent work force may have to pick
up and fulfill these duties left vacant, while working 20 percent fewer
Health benefits, flexible spending accounts, federal group life
insurance, vision and dental plans and federal long-term care plans are
not impacted during this furlough period. However, the employee is still
responsible for the full premiums due for these benefits, even though
their gross pay will be reduced.
These factors are expected to increase the stress on the work force as
they feel the impact on their home budgets while attempting to balance
work priorities during a shortened workweek.
Other questions on the furloughs are emerging. For example, how the
workweek schedule will be affected by furloughs is not clear. Some
facilities and activities may accomplish their mission with a reduced
workweek, while others may go to a rotating schedule in an attempt to
maintain customer service. Discretion is likely to be in the hands of
the supervisor or division leader with guidance from the garrison
commander, but clear guidance is not yet available.
Employee vacation days cannot be used to cover a furlough day, but there
is no prohibition to taking accrued annual leave during the furlough
period, with supervisor approval.
The scheduling of annual leave during the furlough will likely be a lot
tighter due to the reduced work hours and annual leave may need to be
cancelled to meet the mission.
If a furlough day is scheduled immediately before and after a federal
holiday, the employee will not earn the holiday pay. This has the
potential to have additional impact on pay for pay-periods including
Monday, May 27 (Memorial Day), Thursday, July 4 (Independence Day), and
Monday, Sept. 2 (Labor Day).
The availability of unemployment compensation to ease the effect of
furloughs is difficult to summarize because the rules of each state will
apply. Employees may seek part-time employment in the civilian sector,
however, they should discuss with their supervisor to meet ethics
The effect of furloughs on an employee’s Thrift Savings Plan (TSP)
depends on whether deductions are based on percentage of basic pay or on
dollar amount and it may affect the agency’s contribution. Since some
retirement contributions are also based on a percentage of pay,
officials encourage employees to meet with their human resources
representatives and/or financial planners to determine how furloughs
might affect their TSP and retirement contribution.
The availability of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR)
programs may also be affected, but the full impact is not yet known.
This may impact the Army’s ability to mitigate the negative effects of
the furlough by providing MWR activities and Family support programs.
All sequestration and furlough plans and actions are designed to be
reversible. If Congress passes a balanced deficit reduction plan that
the President signs, the impact of sequestration on civilian employees
may be avoided. There is activity in the U.S. House of Representatives
and the U.S. Senate to write bills which would soften the effects of
sequestration; however, there is no guarantee that furloughs will not be
enacted for the full term.
For more information on how sequestration and furloughs affect the IMCOM
workforce, go to