State mulls contingency plan for furloughs of Natl. Guard, storm, wildfire personnel

Published On: Mar 19 2013 08:06:07 PM EDT
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -

Nearly 1,000 members of the Florida National Guard will be advised Thursday they face one-day-per-pay-period furloughs from the end of April through the end of September due to the national fiscal sequestration.

Another 400 soldiers from Florida won’t be eligible for deployments as required periodic medical exams will be postponed, Major General Emmett Titshaw, head of the Florida National Guard, told the Cabinet on Tuesday.

Additional cut backs in counter narcotic operations will result in 85 layoffs by Sept. 1 in drug confiscation and public school education programs, he said.

The cuts could affect the Guard's ability to respond to disasters said Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

“I think it would be helpful to have (a) Florida contingency plan as we enter the wildfire season, and within 60 to 90 days enter the hurricane season, to know what the needs are, and your limitations are," Putnam said.

The furloughs of 993 uniformed guardsmen, which will effectively cut their pay 20 percent, will carry through the wildfire season and into the heart of hurricane season.

"Knowing how bad and how screwed up Washington is and how it’s going to stay screwed up, our first obligation is to Florida," added Putnam, a former congressman.

"The effect that we’re having in Florida is our deploying units are still on schedule to deploy, but we’ve been given orders to downsize the number of soldiers and airmen we’re putting on those deployments," Titshaw said.

Seven projects at the 125th Fighter Wing in Jacksonville will be postponed as part of nearly $30 million in cuts to the Florida National Guard that Titshaw said could reach $54 million.

Titshaw said some of the impacts may be offset if Congress approves legislation later this week that would offer federal agencies "some flexibility" in how to direct required sequestration cuts for the rest of the year.

The federal law requiring $1.2 trillion in across-the-board spending cuts as a penalty for not reaching a deal on specific budget balancing plans began March 1.

Gen. Frank Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau of the Army, who is the top Guard official in the nation, told Congress last month that the Guard's ability to respond to disasters nationwide would be severely impacted by the sequestration.

The Guard said last month that nationally, more than half of its full-time members could be furloughed one day per week in all states, and that training could be curtailed.

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