By By VINCE LITTLEDecember 15, 2011
Projected civilian workforce reductions announced by the Army are expected to have minimal impact on permanent employees and no disruption to the mission or functions at Fort Benning, post officials said last week.
In July, the Army directed a decrease in its civilian labor force by about 8,700 slots overall as part of forecasted federal budget cuts. Installation Management Command, Training and Doctrine Command, and Army Materiel Command leaders were directed to reduce civilian positions here by 247 before the end of fiscal 2012, which comes to a close Sept. 30.
At Fort Benning, however, a workforce restructuring and reshaping effort has been under way since the July directive and after the Maneuver Center of Excellence met Base Realignment and Closure objectives this past year for full operating capacity, said Col. Jeffrey Fletcher, the garrison commander.
IMCOM is adjusting to 2013 staffing levels. As a result, 49 term positions cannot be renewed, and 51 permanent workers have been identified as excess. Management will make every effort to reassign the excess personnel, said Cindy Marotta, chief of Manpower for Resource Management. Among the 51, some will be offered Voluntary Early Retirement Authority or Voluntary Separation Incentive Pay, but officials currently have no authority
for a reduction-in-force, she said.
"For our term employees, they were hired with the knowledge their employment would be short-term in nature," said IMCOM Resource Management director Jay Mason.
John Petersen, the MCoE deputy director, G-8 Resource Management, said 98 temporary and term positions aren't being renewed on the TRADOC side, or are being placed against vacant positions. The Army also marked 32 permanent jobs for elimination, but only 19 were filled on post at the time, and all have now been placed into other openings.
Since July, all Fort Benning organizations, agencies and directorates have been actively engaged in meeting the Army goals through selective hiring freezes, release of temporary and some term employees on their expiration dates, and reassigning permanent personnel to other vacancies, Petersen said.
"We've known this was coming since July," he said. "As a result, various organizations on Fort Benning have worked hard to plan for this, so as few people as possible will be negatively impacted."
As the calendar approaches 2012, post officials are confident they can meet Army reduction objectives while making placements for the few individuals who need to be placed in other permanent positions, said Brandon Cockrell, chief of plans, analysis and integration for the garrison.
"We're aggressively looking at placement possibilities for these individuals if their skill sets match elsewhere," he said. "With nine-and-a-half months to go, there's a high probability we'll meet our numbers."
A garrison management review board was created to examine possible placements and widen the opportunity pool, officials said. It includes representatives from the garrison, Civilian Personnel Advisory Center, Manpower and Equal Employment Opportunity Office.
Cockrell said the panel will address five alternatives as it seeks resolution for the 51 permanent "overhire" positions under IMCOM: offers of VERA and VSIP, moving personnel laterally via "direct match," a shift to the same pay grade under minimum skill-set qualifications, saving an excess slot with direct-match permanent party employees and the IMCOM Enterprise Placement Program.
"IEPP is a safety net IMCOM has in play across multiple installations," he said. "Rotating personnel to a different post with a new placement could be another option."
CPAC supervisory human resources specialist Shirley Southall said permanent workers take priority over temporary and term employees when it comes to placement and reassignment.
"Every attempt possible will be made not to separate anyone," she said, "and we have managers across the installation who are willing to work with us. We care about our workforce and our people, and we want to take care of them all."
Should the involuntary separation process be unavoidable, employees would receive notices at least 60 days in advance, Southall said.