When you hear the word “furlough,” do you feel as though you are listening to the teacher on the Charlie Brown cartoons? “Wah, wah, waaaahh.” Do your eyes glaze over in utter confusion? If so, you’re not alone.
When budget numbers are in the hundreds of billions, it can be hard to comprehend and put into perspective; when it’s directly linked to your paycheck, it can be a little scary too.
Furloughs will save the federal government about $1.8 billion. This is a down payment on the $22 billion that our office is still short in Operations and Maintenance accounts in Fiscal Year 2013. These O&M funds are used to pay most civilian employees, maintain military readiness, and respond to global contingencies.
Regardless of these cuts, Fort Detrick assures that safety of life and property will remain at the top of the priority list. Through partnerships with the community and other organizations, we will be able to navigate our way through this difficult time.
You may be asking yourself, if this is only saving $1.8 billion and we are still short $22 billion, why is furlough even necessary? Well, this is only one of many ways spending has been reduced. Several steps have already been taken to reduce spending within the Department of Defense.
o Most services and defense agencies have begun instituting civilian hiring freezes, with exceptions for mission-critical activities.
o Most services and defense agencies have begun laying off most of its 46,000 temporary and term employees -- again with exceptions for mission-critical activities.
o Most services and defense agencies are curtailing facilities maintenance. More than $10 billion in funding— mostly to contractors and small businesses—is affected, translating into lost jobs in the private sector.
o Army has terminated most remaining training at its combat centers, which are culminating training events, and stopped many other training activities.
o Many key public engagements, including air shows, have been cancelled.
Some of the comments and questions that have been asked are “How does this affect me? How can I help? How will my family get through this? I can handle a lot, but when my money is affected, it really bothers me.”
It will take time before the full effects of these furloughs will be apparent, but Fort Detrick leadership is doing everything within its power to minimize adverse effects on national security while also serving and supporting the warfighter mission.
"Furlough will be a difficult time for all of us. Each of us must recognize there are Fort Detrick and community resources available to assist in our individual concerns,” said U.S. Army Garrison Fort Detrick commander Col. Steven P. Middlecamp. “Our strength as an Army is supporting Soldiers, Families, and Civilians. We are Army Strong when we look after one another and stand together as a community. If you need more information or require assistance, please talk with your supervisor, organizational leadership, the Army's Employee Assistance Program or Army Community Services."
It cannot be stressed enough that support services are available to help during and after this time of furlough. The EAP and ACS offer several avenues to assist, whether it is training, speaking with a counselor, learning how to budget or just learning how to relax and meditate. These programs at Fort Detrick are in place to provide the necessary tools to adjust properly.
The most difficult issue to deal with when it comes to furlough is the reduction in pay. Here are a few ways to handle this issue.
1. Prioritize your spending. Figure out what needs to be paid, what are the most important things in your budget that need to be covered, and start saying “no” to things that can wait or that you really do not need.
2. Make cuts where possible. Once you determine what is necessary, trim out the rest.
3. If you have debt, contact your creditors and find out about your options. Look at a reduction in interest rates or find a payment plan to make your payments more manageable.
4. Seek additional income. Find ways to earn more with a part-time job.
When people struggle with challenging times, they often feel alone. It is helpful to remember that we are all in this together, and there are a number of resources available on post that offer support. The EAP is one resource that specializes in working with employees, their job performance, mental health issues and anything that might affect their job performance, according to Lindsay Tate, an EAP coordinator at Fort Detrick. The EAP program is highly confidential and provides employees with a free place where they can go and can address personal or performance issues with hope that they can restore their productivity on the job. EAP services are available to all Army civilians, military retirees, and family members. The EAP also offers workshops on a variety of topics to promote positive coping and foster a healthier, safer, and more productive workplace.
Call 301-619-4657 for more information about the EAP, or visit the EAP webpage on the Fort Detrick extranet at http://www.detrick.army.mil/asap/eap.cfm. For Forest Glen, call 301-295-7166.
For Army Community Services, call 301-619-2197. For more information/guidance regarding Furlough, visit the OPM site at www.opm.gov.