Federal budget cuts force civilian employee furloughs

by: Kevin McCarty Updated:

JBLM Furloughs

JBLM - Three high-ranking commanders at Joint Base Lewis-McChord said federal budget cuts brought on by sequestration are forcing them to furlough as many as 10,000 civilian employees who work on base. "Now after all of the sacrifice, we're going back to them again and saying we want you to sacrifice some more," said JBLM Cmdr. Col. Chuck Hodges. Hodges said the budget for running basic services at the base has been slashed and that civilian employees face losing a day of work a week until Congress passes a federal budget.

 Col. Dallas Homas, who commands the Madigan Army Medical Center, said his facility is being hard hit by both the budget cuts and a hiring freeze, and that he's losing employees at a rate of five to 10 every week but cannot replace them. Homas said some employees have told him they will be forced to quit if they have to lose 20 percent of their take-home pay to furlough days. "I have hundreds of personally written letters that employees have written to me detailing the personal toll this is taking on them," Homas said. He added that many can easily find work in other medical facilities in the Tacoma area.

Already, soldiers are replacing private civilian security guards at most of the gates leading in and out of JBLM. But commanders said they can't replace experienced civilian workers who help run a base that is, in effect, the sixth-largest city in Washington state. "You can't tell my emergency services, both my police and firemen, 'Hey take Friday off, we're not going to have any fires that day, or have any crime,'" Hodges said.

 Employees can respond to furlough notices mailed out in late May, and some could be exempt if their jobs are vital to base operations.