By Courtney Dock, Pentagram Editor March 22, 2013
More than 200 Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall employees filled the Community Center March 19 to hear from the base commander about how the impending Defense Department furloughs will go into effect.
Col. Fern O. Sumpter, JBM-HH commander, was joined by other subject matter experts who spoke about the administrative furlough tentatively scheduled to begin approximately 30 days after notification.
"The administrative furlough, which is the one we're about to go into is a planned event," said Sumpter. "We have an opportunity to figure out how to implement the furlough."
Sumpter explained the furlough will affect GS and wage grade employees. A notice was issued March 19 stating all non-appropriated funded personnel would be exempt from the furlough. She went on to say that the command had asked for exemptions for the entire Directorate of Emergency Services as well as some Directorate of Public Works personnel; however as of March 21, those exceptions had not yet been approved.
The furlough is scheduled to last until Sept. 21 over the course of 11 pay periods, said Sumpter. There will be a total of 22 non-consecutive days or 176 hours.
"Letters will come out as a formal announcement for the furlough," said the joint base commander. "There will be a formal letter letting you know what the unions have come to an agreement on."
Sumpter said she gets a lot of questions about emergency situations and whether or not someone can take leave during the furlough period.
"I know how committed the work force is and how you all do much more than anyone could ever ask for and I really appreciate that," she said. "But on your furlough day, that is your furlough day and you cannot do any government work unless you are recalled due to an emergency. If you're recalled on your furlough day, we're negotiating to be flexible to shift the furlough day around. It will be clear what the limits are during the furlough."
During the furlough period, personnel are permitted to take leave, but with a few stipulations.
"You can't substitute leave or comp time for furlough days," said Sumpter. "At the end of the day, the Department of Defense expects us to recapture so much of our pay expenses so everyone has to take their 22 days."
A portion of the town hall was dedicated to the process of how deductions and allotments will be debited from personnel's gross pay. Sumpter explained that due to the large crowd, it would be very difficult to talk specifics for each person.
"It really is incumbent upon you to do your own research because there's nobody that can stand in front of a group like this, and as large as this, and address everyone's specific personal financial situation," she said. "You really need to do one-on-one counseling."
Sumpter explained that Installation Management Command has sent out a memo giving commanders guidance on how they are supposed to respond to budget cuts.
"Some of the things include decrease in contracts, obviously the furlough is one of them, reduce services in areas depending on how much they cost unless they are reimbursed," she said.
"I will never say to you 'Do more with less.' I've always hated that statement and actually it makes no sense," said the commander. "There is an expectation, my expectation, that some of our services will decrease. It's just going to have to. It is incumbent upon the supervisors, directors and managers to manage their individual sections so that we can continue to provide services."
"Notice what I did not say was that customer service goes out the window," she continued.
"Customer service is now the most important piece that we provide in the services that we give every day. I know that's going to be difficult, but I need you to press through that. Because at the same time, some of our customers are probably experiencing the same thing you're experiencing."
"We are doing the best we can with the resources we have," said the joint base commander. "We will get past this."
On hand for the town hall was a panel of subject matter experts, including two financial counselors from Army Community Service. After the colonel's question and answer portion, Jin Lim, Survivor Outreach Services financial counselor, spoke about options to save and prepare financially for the furlough.
The counselors are on hand to provide financial counseling services for civilian employees affected by the furlough. To schedule an appointment, contact ACS at 703-696-3510. To view the financial preparation slides from Tuesday's town hall, log onto www.slideshare.net/JBMHH /acs-planning-for-furloughs.
For more information about sequestration and the scheduled furlough, log onto www.army.mil/jbmhh. To see the command slides from Tuesday's town hall, log onto www.slideshare.net/JBMHH/jbm-hh-administrative-furlough-town-hall-slides.