Garrison keeps focus on people during workforce cuts
Bird Courtesy Photo

FORT HOOD, Texas - Utilizing voluntary retirement and incentives programs, Fort Hood is on the path to meeting the Army-mandated reduction of the civilian workforce. As efforts continue Armywide to meet the adjusted authorizations, Fort Hood garrison is keeping the focus on taking care of people.

"People are our number one priority," Fort Hood Garrison Commander Col. Mark Freitag said Friday. "We are going to take care of our people."

Noting that decreased federal funding has resulted in a decreased number of authorizations, Freitag said Fort Hood is trying to exhaust all voluntary means to meet the Army-mandated end state goal for the civilian workforce.

Currently, garrison and directorate leaders are working to keep civilians informed about the status of the reductions and to answer questions by hosting planned town hall sessions. Garrison leaders along with representatives from Fort Hood's Civilian Personnel Advisory Center will host town halls Jan. 12 from 9-10 a.m. and 11 a.m.-noon at Palmer Theater; Jan. 25 from 2:30-3:30 p.m. at the Mission Control Training Center and Feb. 6 from 10:30-11:30 a.m. at Palmer Theater. There, they will brief civilian employees about the current state of the reductions and answer questions.

"We've got to be transparent," Deputy Garrison Commander Andy Bird said.

The Army's Aug. 4, 2011, announcement included a reduction of more than 8,700 civilian employees force-wide to be completed by Sept. 30 this year. At Fort Hood, that translates into a 10 percent reduction, from 1,870 employees in June 2011 to 1,700 before the end of this fiscal year.

As of Jan. 5, the garrison had cut the workforce to 1,774 as employees have taken advantage of programs such as the Voluntary Early Retirement Program, Voluntary Separation Incentive Program and reassignments.

Two rounds of VERA/VSIP canvassing of civilian employees have been successful, garrison leaders said, but there is still more work to do.

"We continue to canvass the workforce and help with reassignments," Bird said.

Some VERA/VSIP applications are still pending completion through March, and canvassing of the workforce for eligible and willing employees continues.

"We are looking across the board," he said.

Natural attrition, retirements, relocations and reassignments also will help Fort Hood reach the target number of personnel, Bird added.

Installation Management Command rolled out its new Web-based employment assistance tool for civilians in November.

The IMCOM Enterprise Placement Portal is a placement tool for IMCOM employees who are likely to be affected by the workforce reductions, according to IMCOM.

The Web-based program offers eligible employees the opportunity to view vacant IMCOM positions, documents to help with resume building and a section where announcement of any program changes can be viewed. Opportunities are for reassignments and voluntary change to lower grades only.

The portal is currently down until mid-January, according to the IEPP website. More information about the program is available online at https://www.us.army.mil/page/662838.

Freitag is optimistic that Fort Hood will meet the adjusted authorization numbers. He and other garrison leaders are adamant about accomplishing their goal through voluntary methods.

"We are trying to exhaust all necessary means," the garrison commander said. "Fort Hood is postured in a good position."

Reductions to the workforce could also mean cuts to some programs, but Bird said many programs offered on the installation are protected by Army regulations.

"We're still looking at programs, but we will sustain all front-door services," he said. "We cannot reduce front-door services."

Front-door services are those that provide a tangible product or benefit, the deputy garrison commander added. IMCOM defines baseline services that have to, by Army regulation, be provided, such as force protection and ID card services.

As post and Army officials continue to look at programs when it comes to funding, they are taking a hard look at where there are redundancies in offered services, Freitag said. On a local level, Fort Hood has seen some cuts to programs.

Currently, Fort Hood's Civilian Leadership Development Program has been suspended indefinitely because of a lack of funding, Freitag announced Jan. 5 in the Sentinel. The garrison commander said he hopes the program will return and called it a "best practice here" for its record of helping to develop civilians.

On April 1, the Freeman Dining Facility will close, also because of funding, Freitag said. Current funding constraints only allow Fort Hood to keep three dining facilities in the main cantonment area open at half-strength, he added.

The garrison remains proactive in achieving its personnel goals, Freitag added, and is optimistic about the services it provides to Soldiers and Families.

Page last updated Thu January 12th, 2012 at 00:00