WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawaii -- U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has stated that he has been deeply concerned about the potential direct impact of sequestration on you and your families.

"We are doing everything possible to limit the worst effects on DOD (Department of Defense) personnel, but I regret that our flexibility within the law is extremely limited," he said.

According to Hagel, the president has used his legal authority to exempt military personnel funding from sequestration; however, the DOD has no legal authority to exempt civilian personnel funding from reductions.

"As a result," he said, "should sequestration occur and continue for a substantial period, DOD will be forced to place the vast majority of its civilian workforce on administrative furlough."

The latest news on sequestration, hiring freeze and furlough at U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii is as follows.

Furloughs

A furlough places an employee in a temporary non-duty, non-pay status because of lack of work, reduction or lack of funds, or other non-disciplinary reason. A six-month DOD FY 13 civilian furlough is estimated to save nearly $5 billion.

Communication with customers is our local installation's key to success. Taking care of employees is paramount. Information, as it becomes available, will be published in this column, each week.

Beginning April 26, all USAG-HI civilian employees will incur 16 hours of furlough each pay period, amounting to 22 discontinuous days, up to 176 hours, ending Sept. 21, 2013.

Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation

DFMWR has limited impact, as non-appropriated fund workforce is not impacted by the furlough. DFMWR will continue normal operations based on availability of funds.

Directorate of Public Works

For service orders, Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays will be daily, operational, half-staff, from 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays will be full staff; personnel will be catching up on priorities, health, safety and welfare, from 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays the Installation Operations Center answers phone calls from 5 p.m.-7:30 a.m.

Directorate of Human Resources

Local off-duty education remains operational. However, one Army guidance counselor will be furloughed each day, so the impact will be a longer wait for guidance counselor services. Soldiers leaving the Army, however, must see a local Army counselor before they can clear post. Education officials will continue to see Soldiers who have other counseling needs -- for example, to provide career counseling, discuss other options to pay for college and to counsel on ways to upgrade basic skills and more.

Army Continuing Education System, or ACES, has suspended Army tuition assistance. Read more about ACES tuition assistance at www.army.mil/article/98267/.

The garrison's Army Substance Abuse Program office has taken the lead in assembling a "Sequestration Stress Mitigation Team," and it rolled out a program, March 13, at the Main Post Chapel on Schofield Barracks.

The intent was to present a menu of resources and options for civilian employees who are facing difficult and challenging times due to the impacts of sequestration and possible furloughs. These options included counseling on dealing with stress, financial counseling and personnel system options.

Tripler Army Medical Center

Access to primary care within the direct care system will be diminished during periods when the furlough is in effect.

Fewer Department of the Army civilians will be available to assist with patient care, and the amount of care delivered through the direct care system will be reduced.

Strategies to mitigate staff losses include backfilling absent civilian labor with military staff (internal and borrowed military manpower) and possibly reducing clinic operating hours or days.

At this time, the impacts to specific programs and services at TAMC, U.S. Army Health Clinic-Schofield Barracks and the Warrior Ohana Medical Home have not been determined.

Although the furlough will have an impact on the amount of health care delivery, it will not have any impact on the quality of health care delivery. Army medicine is committed to providing uninterrupted care during sequestration.

Commissary

The Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) is thoughtfully developing its plan to minimize the impact of sequestration on commissary patrons, should furloughs be implemented.

If furloughs are implemented, all commissaries are likely to close one day per week, beginning late April, in addition to their current operating schedule.

While there will be definite impacts to patrons, and certainly to employees, if furloughs are implemented, the principles guiding DeCA's planning efforts are to lessen the impacts of sequestration wherever it can.

Page last updated Fri March 22nd, 2013 at 00:00