Most Viewed Stories
Furloughs underway at Fort Irwin, MCLB
Garrison commander expects reduced staff, no major impacts to services
FORT IRWIN • Fort Irwin will operate at a reduced staff with furloughs underway but the Army post doesn’t expect major impacts to community services, a Fort Irwin official said Wednesday.
“Out here life will basically be the same as it has always been, with minimal impact to services,” Garrison Commander Col. Kurt Pinkerton said.
Mandated unpaid time off for Department of Defense civilian workers began at both the Army post and the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Barstow on Monday as a result of the automatic federal budget cuts known as sequestration. More than 650,000 civilian employees will be affected nationwide.
Police department employees, building management workers, security guards at the front gate, hospital staff and those who run the facilities for rotational Army units are all examples of those impacted by furloughs, Pinkerton said. Each civilian employee will receive a 20 percent reduction in pay and be required to take up to 11 days off, or one day per week, until the end of the fiscal year ending Sept. 30.
Pinkerton said that the majority of Fort Irwin civilian workers already work a four-day work week while receiving the pay of a 40-hour week, through what is called an adjusted work schedule. Once an employee accrues enough time they can benefit from the program, he said. Under furloughs, they will still work the four-day week at the post, but be paid for 32 hours a pay period.
“The biggest difference now is that alternate work schedules are by exception only now,” Pinkerton said.
Many of the on-post businesses — including Fort Irwin’s “Exchange,” a mini-mall of sorts, along with gas stations, fast food restaurants, a movie theater and a recreation center — will still operate at normal hours, he said. The salaries of those employees are not paid by the appropriated funds being impacted by the federal cuts, he said.
“From a services perspective there’s nothing I’m not performing or doing that I wasn’t doing before,” he said. “Our community support capability has not changed at all.”
Garrison command is likened to a city manager and is in charge of running the day-to-day operations of the installation. The post’s supermarket, known as a commissary, will be closed one day a week on Mondays. Fort Irwin’s remote desert location had caused the commissary to uniquely operate seven days a week prior to the furlough period, an anomaly for an Army installation, Pinkerton said.
With the furloughs underway, some smaller administrative offices will also close for one day a week and overtime will not be allowed, he said.
U.S. Representative Paul Cook, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, released a statement regarding the beginning of furloughs on Monday.
“So long as our country has troops in harm’s way, it is unacceptable to put such severe budget restrictions on the Department of Defense,” Cook said. “The civilian employees of the (Department of Defense) play an integral role in our national security. Restricting their ability to do their jobs poses a serious threat to our nation’s defense and mission readiness. We can save money in other ways like eliminating waste and resisting the urge to expand programs and bases.”
Contact the writer:BSelf@DesertDispatch.com or 760-256-4123.