Florida Guard civilians, readiness threatened by furloughs

Published On: Feb 21 2013 05:39:52 PM EST
Updated On: Feb 22 2013 07:19:03 AM EST

VIDEO: We're learning more about the impact on our local military presence, if Congress is forced to make automatic spending cuts next Friday. The Department of Defense says the cuts will be "catastrophic." More than 8,000 civilians working for the Navy could face furloughs. But they won't be alone. It will also affect hundreds of local employees for the Florida National Guard headquartered in St. Augustine. Channel 4's Jim Piggott spoke with guard officials about the potential impact.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

Among thousands of civilian military employees across northeast Florida facing furloughs in the coming months are hundreds of people working for Florida National Guard.

If Congress fails to act and the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration goes into effect March 1, at Florida Army National Guard headquarters in St. Augustine could see 914 people furloughed one day a week for seven months -- which will not only affect paychecks, but the guard's readiness to help fight America's wars and cope with national disasters.

"There will be a downgrade in our facilities," Col. Perry Hagaman said. "There will be a downgrade in our training levels. There will be a downgrade in our equipment."

At the Florida Air National Guard facility at Jacksonville International Airport, 225 civilian employees would be forced to take on-day-a-week off without pay.

What is sequestration? More coverage

These furloughs would save the Pentagon about $1.9 million, but officials say the impact would be far more than losing a day of work. These are the people who maintain the jets, and in some cases fly them.

"We expect to be able to continue our air defense mission in the short term," said Col. Brian Simpler. "But in the long term, we will see a degradation with support and being able to preform that mission as we see the budget cuts effect our training and flying hours."

That is the main concern we are hearing from the guard's leadership.

When we furlough 900 and some employees, we will have an immediate impact on the Florida National Guard, but, with that, we are working every minute of the day trying to minimize those impacts.

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