March 12, 2013 --
By Monique Randolph, Marine Corps Systems Command Corporate Communications
The commander of Marine Corps Systems Command held a town hall meeting March 8 to discuss the potential effects of sequestration on the workforce at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. Brig. Gen. Frank Kelley and subject matter experts from the base and command addressed topics ranging from financial considerations to security concerns in case the civilian workforce is furloughed.
“We were going to have a town hall on Feb. 19, and it was going to be a good one,” Kelley said to the audience of about 500 Marines and civilian employees. “But I couldn’t stand up here in front of you and not give you the information everyone wanted to know, like sequestration, continuing resolution, and the new, ugly f-word: ‘furlough.’”
If a furlough is triggered, civilian employees in the Marine Corps could be made to take two days of unpaid leave per pay period, which officials estimate will result in about a 20 percent decrease in pay for affected time periods.
“Never in my 30 years [in government] did I think it would come to the point of where we are today with a furlough being suggested for a 22-day period,” said Dr. John Burrow, MCSC executive director. “It’s not just impacting the lowest salary in the command; it goes all the way up to the top. The impact of a furlough to you will be the same as the impact of a furlough to me. I’m not immune.
“Here’s what I can tell you—there are a lot of things you can feel bad about—a lot of frustration,” Burrow said. “But there are a couple things to feel pretty good about. Number one, for your leadership in the Marine Corps, from the commandant to the one-stars to the senior executives, the concern has always been about the impact to the civilian Marine community.”
Burrow encouraged the audience to continue to focus on the mission, but also to plan for the possibility of a furlough.
“I’m hoping this won’t come to pass,” he said. “But don’t wait. Start your planning because the potential is real and the impacts will be real. We’re all going to get through this together.”
Michelle Cresswell, deputy commander for Resource Management, explained to the workforce how budgetary pressures during the last few years have led the government to the point of sequestration.
“In my career, I’ve never seen a fiscal environment such as the one we’re in right now,” Cresswell said. “What we have is multiple budget pressures going on simultaneously. Any one of these pressures taken separately would cause issues with our programs and what we do at work. The confluence of each budget pressure all at the same time has created the unique severe fiscal environment we’re in right now.”
Sequestration was a default consequence of the Budget Control Act created by Congress and signed into law by the president in 2011, Cresswell said. The act called for automatic budget cuts of $1.2 trillion across the federal government—including $600 billion to the Defense Department alone—if a balanced budget agreement was not reached by the end of 2011.
The congressional committee assigned to develop a balanced budget did not reach agreement, and sequestration, or the “fiscal cliff,” was set to occur Jan. 2, 2013, Cresswell said. Congress then delayed sequestration and deferred the date to March 1. When a budget agreement was still not reached, sequestration took effect March 2.
“The bottom line is that our budgets are experiencing extreme reductions and pressures,” she said. “As a result, the entire federal government—not just the DOD—is required to make some extremely tough decisions.
“We all need to be able to understand the impacts on our programs and ourselves and try to plan as best we can,” Cresswell said. “What we’re doing today is providing information so that in the case of a furlough, you can all understand the rules and regulations we need to operate in. The decisions on furlough, and many of the decisions that are occurring, are outside of our command. They are government-wide and departmental issues, and many of the decisions [like furlough] are not delegated to the services or commands.”
The department decision to implement a furlough will be made between March 15-25, and employees will be notified at least 30 days in advance either by hand-delivered letter or certified mail, according to officials from MCSC Workforce Management and Development. If implemented, an administrative furlough would be effective in late April.
“There are some things we know and some things we don’t,” said Shelly Dunphy, a WMD business manager. “This is significant, we understand and we’ll do what we can to keep our employees informed.”
Following are potential furlough implications to civilian employees:
- The furlough will not be more than 22 nonconsecutive days and 176 hours.
- Employees may not substitute paid leave or other time off for furlough days.
- Furloughed employees are prohibited from working from home or on-site during furlough days—employees may not volunteer.
- The command’s intent is for all personnel to be furloughed on the same day.
- Employees may not be on travel during furlough days and must return prior to the scheduled furlough day.
- Employees will not earn annual and sick leave for each pay period in which they have been furloughed for a total of 80 hours.
- Employees will be authorized to seek outside employment as long as both the employee and employer comply with federal ethics requirements.
Employees are encouraged to keep a journal detailing any work and training that is delayed or they are unable to accomplish as a result of a furlough, Dunphy said.
Additionally, employees who hold security clearances and are concerned about meeting financial responsibilities should plan ahead, said Tim Wagner, director of Security for MCSC.
“As our salaries decrease, we will all be affected and we’ll have to adjust and make concessions,” he said. “Get a baseline of where you are today—where you are with your bills. Get a copy of your credit report and set it aside. Fill out a monthly budget and figure out where your money is. Try to pay your bills the best way possible. Take the steps to look at your finances. Figure out what you need to do to get through this.”