Town hall explores furlough options, Employees receive lessons learned from Hurricane Sandy
March 19, 2013
PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. - As the Picatinny Arsenal workforce prepares for the possibility of furloughs, the installation's senior mission commander, Brig. Gen. John J. McGuiness, held a second town hall meeting to inform garrison employees of some things they might expect.
"I'd like this to be a dialogue," McGuiness said. "Really what this is about is communication; a dialogue about what is going on in our town, Picatinny.
"We have an obligation to the Warfighter," he said. "The installation will remain open five days a week.
The current plan is to have half of the employees furloughed on Monday and the other half on Friday. This proposed schedule is consistent with plans by other major tenants at the Arsenal.
"I want this coordination of schedule planning to be done at the lowest level of supervisors if possible," the general said. "Schedule from the bottom up."
Due to the nature of their duties, garrison commander Lt. Col. Jason Mackay has asked for exemptions for some key components to the Directorate of Emergency Services, such as police, fire and emergency medical technicians (EMTs).
"We are going to have to reduce the operating hours for some of our entrance points," Mackay added.
The current plan is to keep the main gate open 24 hours a day. However, the truck gate will close at 1:30 p.m. daily, and the Mt. Hope and Escape Trail gates will close altogether.
Mackay also said that customers may experience longer than normal waiting periods for service requests. Several offices have a small number of employees, making it impossible for them to rotate Mondays and Fridays off. Therefore those smaller organizations may be reduced to four-day work weeks. These include the Equal Employment Opportunities and Safety offices.
"Army Community Services, Plans, Analysis, and Integration, and the Department of Public Works, among others would continue to operate on a five-day work week," Mackay said. "However, customers may still experience delays as if they need a particular employee to work on something. He or she may not be there that day because it is their scheduled day off."
"Please be patient," Mackay added.
The town hall meeting started with a briefing on the results of the 2013 Army Emergency Relief campaign thus far.
Attendees also witnessed video messages on suicide awareness, after which a short tribute to heroes returning home to their families was played.
"Every single smile, every child you saw in that video, you contributed to that," McGuiness said.
Reflecting upon the high rate of suicide within the Army, McGuiness told employees they need to be watchful not just of Soldiers but also of other employees, friends, family, and neighbors.
"This calendar year we already lost more than 60 Soldiers to suicide and we are only in March," McGuiness said. Times are getting tough and things are going to get tougher with the furlough and budget cuts, reduction in pay. The message here is we are all one team, one town, one Picatinny. Check your buddies. Check up on the employee in the next cubicle over."
The general then presented coins to employees who helped Picatinny exceed the $250,000 goal for the 2012 Combined Federal Campaign. McGuiness said the Arsenal as a whole raised more than $262,000, a number each employee should be proud of.
McGuiness then addressed a topic he said both he and the Army take very seriously. After investigations concluded that there were cases of abuse reported at an Army post child care facility last year the Army sent out assessment and investigative teams to many post facilities to report any findings.
"You need to have confidence that when you drop your children off at our child care centers when you go to work for us, that they are safe. And they are!" McGuiness said.
"This was a positive news story for Picatinny. Years ago when I was here as a major my children went to CDCs (Child Development Centers). I take this very seriously and I am happy to report that we had no negative findings during our assessment."
Col. Steven Cummings then provided findings from a Hurricane Sandy afteraction review. Cummings said that 59 inputs were consolidated and presented to the task force and each was assigned to an action officer.
Items ranged from issues with transportation, communications and overall quality of life during the super storm that caused damage to 149 buildings and structures at a cost of about $3.7 million.
"We had a team in our Emergency Operations Center working round the clock to get the Arsenal back up to operational standards again," Cummings said. It was like putting a small town back together again."
Both McGuiness and Cummings disdiscussed the decision-making process in opening the installation for employees who could make it to work in the days after the storm.
"We really tried to make the best decisions, not to save dollars, but the best decision for the workforce," Cummings said. "When we close the post it doesn't just affect us. We offer services so the effects go outside the gates as well to retirees, veterans, family members--a variety of people."
John Hedderich, acting director of the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering, Center thanked the Arsenal's first responders including police, fire and EMTs for ther role in ensuring employee safety as well as provide a quick response during an urgent need.
Veronica Morgante offered information on the upcoming sexual assault awareness month in April. She said the goal is to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual assault.
McGuiness gave a quick overview of milestones at the Program Executive Office for Ammunition, followed by Col. Scott Armstrong, Project Manager Soldier Weapons.
"Every Soldier in today's Army or National Guard carries our gear," Armstrong said. "We have roughly 25 programs of record right now. One focus is on lightening the Soldier's carrying load."
Armstrong said that right now Soldiers are carrying cleaning kits for nearly every single weapon when they do not necessarily need a kit for each weapon.
"It is added weight and we are looking into another approach to lighten that part of the load. It's just one part but all together these lighter items help improve Soldier performance."