Budget cuts place 16,000 in Hawaii on 4-day workweeks
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser
HONOLULU — Department of Defense sequestration furloughs took hold this week, forcing more than 16,000 civilian workers in Hawaii to start taking a day off without pay.
And it will be the same four-day workweek and four days of pay per week for the rest of the fiscal year, which runs through September.
About 85 percent of civilian Defense Department workers are being furloughed, saving $1.8 billion, the Pentagon said. What happens next year to meet mandated cuts is still unclear.
Pentagon spokesman George Little said at a news briefing Monday that it was too soon to start talking about the possibility of layoffs.
"We're getting ahead of ourselves talking about layoffs at this stage," Little said. "Right now we're in the furlough period, and no decisions have been reached about what may happen going forward."
The White House early on projected that as many as 20,000 Defense Department civilian workers in Hawaii might be affected by furloughs, leaving an estimated $134 million dent in the state's economy.
That was when 22 furlough days were being discussed. The number dropped from 22 to 14 to the 11 days that started this week.
The cuts will have an impact on about 1,000 Hawaii Air and Army National Guard members who work as federal technicians during the week, keeping the 5,500-member Hawaii National Guard going.
Army Guard Maj. Jeff Hickman, who deployed to Afghanistan for nine months and returned to Hawaii in February, got a pay raise while he was overseas but said the 20 percent pay cut will now hurt his family.
"So we knew we got a little pay jump (while deployed), and then when you come back you are already planning for the pay cut — you are using money you saved from the deployment to try to make up for any shortage or loss that you are going to have," said Hickman, who works in public affairs for the Guard.
His wife found a new job that will help make up some of the losses, he said.
"I know a lot of other technicians are looking for other sources of income during those Mondays (furlough days) off," Hickman said. "It's going to be really hard to find a job where you say, ‘Hey, I only need to work on Mondays.'"
Air Force Lt. Col. Chuck Anthony, a Guard spokesman, said despite the cuts, the Hawaii Air National Guard still is required to fly the same number of hours it did before sequestration with F-22 Raptor fighters, KC-135 refueling tankers and C-17 cargo aircraft.
"It's another one of those curveballs that's thrown at you that you have to react to," he said.
To fill gaps, some traditional Guard personnel are being brought on active duty as part of annual training requirements or paid out of other funds.
"Let's say a guy is a wrench-turner at Hawaiian Airlines for a civilian job," Anthony said. "If he can get a little time off from there, we can put him on orders for a few days here and there on the Air Guard side so he can turn wrenches on a KC-135, for instance."
The Navy said of the more than 10,000 appropriated-fund employees in Hawaii, nearly 6,000 are being furloughed. The Army said about 7,000 workers in Hawaii could be furloughed.
More than 2,000 Air Force and Marine Corps Base Hawaii civilians will see reduced paychecks.
Many offices at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam will be closed Mondays or Fridays, said Agnes Tauyan, a spokeswoman for Navy Region Hawaii.
"Each individual command, however, is responsible for carrying out their furlough plans, and some commands are staggering furlough days in order to minimize the impact to operational requirements," she said.
The Joint Personal Property Shipping Office and Hickam Housing Management Office are among those that will be closed Mondays.
Summertime is usually the busiest time of year for moves, and military personnel can expect an increase in waiting times and challenges with scheduling appointments, Tauyan said.
Most of the military's commissaries also will be closed Mondays.
Dennis Drake, a spokesman for U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii, said the Army furloughs will occur on a variety of days each week.
"We've got to keep the mission going," Drake said. "Most folks are taking Fridays or Mondays off. It just depends on what office and what operation it is."