HEIDELBERG, Germany — Civilian temporary workers on bases throughout U.S. Army Europe will be fired within the next two weeks, and permanent workers who quit will not be replaced under “belt-tightening” measures ordered Friday by the Army’s vice-chief of staff.

How many workers would be fired was not known Wednesday. The Army’s Installation Management Agency-Europe (IMA-E), said it planned to institute the cost-cutting measures — including the firings — right away.

“The guidance given to us was to implement,” said Kim Waltz, IMA-E spokeswoman. And, she said, the guidance was applied throughout IMA.

Mary Griffin-Bales, IMA-E civilian personnel chief, said that there were 300 to 400 temporary employees working for IMA-E, although it wasn’t clear how many of them would be fired and how many worked in categories that were exempt from the firings.

“We employ lots of family members,” Griffin-Bales said. “Many of these people are temporary employees.”

Within IMA, U.S. civilians in temporary jobs not directly supporting warfighting in Iraq and Afghanistan are being given notice that their jobs will end June 15.

“We are announcing these actions as early as possible to allow our affected employees and their families to prepare,” said IMA-E director Russell Hall in a press release.

The future employment of IMA-E’s local national temporary workers is under legal review, said Heide Staley at IMA-E, although their jobs are safe for the moment.

But civilian temps working for U.S. Army Europe, rather than IMA, were given a different message. Department of the Army spokesman Paul Boyce said the Army’s temporary workers could be let go two weeks from now and a hiring freeze begun — if supplemental funds are not soon approved by Congress.

But Boyce said the firings were a “contingency plan,” not a done deal. In the meantime, those employees would be given “tentative notification of pending plans.”

Boyce said the Army has postponed all non-essential travel and training, and plans a hiring freeze to begin June 6 if the money is not forthcoming from Congress.

Asked how many workers in USAREUR might be affected, Boyce referred the matter to USAREUR public affairs. USAREUR public affairs referred the question again to Boyce.

Temporary workers with IMA not subject to being let go include those in food service, central issuing facilities, child development centers, child youth services, and temporary workers at Army Community Services at Baumholder and Giessen. Temporary workers for the 2nd Cavalry Regiment reception at Grafenwöhr and Vilseck are also exempt, according to IMA-E.

Additionally, an IMA summer jobs program for teens, which in years past employed some 750 U.S. youths, is on hold. It may start late, Griffin-Bales said, or it may be canceled.

Fewer workers will likely mean disrupted and reduced services — closed swimming pools and gyms, for instance, and shortened hours at mail rooms, officials said.

Mike Cain, chief of Morale, Welfare and Recreation for IMA-E said most of the temps under his purview are at gyms.

“That will require us to reassess,” he said. “Reduction in hours is something perhaps you’ll see. Some facilities could close. There’s no cookie-cutter approach.”

Other places likely to feel the impact, he said, were arts and craft centers, outdoor recreation centers and Army Community Services, which provides financial and other counseling. But he hoped that many of the slots would be taken by unpaid volunteers, where appropriate, in keeping with an Army volunteering tradition.

IMA employees are also being directed to forego training and TDYs, to cut back on electricity usage, curtail supply orders, defer security enhancement projects and reduce expenditures on leased cars and technology.

“In IMA, we have costs running well ahead of last year and base costs substantially higher than we forecasted,” said Steve Pratt, IMA-E resources manager. Pratt said part of the reason was the decline of the dollar against the Euro, as well as costs associated with moving troops as part of transformation. Additionally, Pratt said, although costs have risen sharply this year, IMA received $300 million less than last year.

“I’m really concerned to get through the fiscal year to pay the bills,” Pratt said.

Ned Christensen, IMA headquarters spokesman, said IMA’s response to budget shortfalls was more “austere” than that of the Army as a whole.

“We are also planning for a very austere FY 07, in hopes of averting similar shortfalls in the future,” Christensen wrote in an email.

The personnel measure is just one way the Army is cutting back as it reaches summer without a supplemental defense appropriations bill passed, bills to pay and its previous money all spent.

In February, President Bush asked Congress for $81.9 billion in additional spending to cover the costs of military and intelligence operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Army transformation, increased death benefits for families of servicemembers killed in combat and tsunami relief in Asia.

Bush earmarked about $75 billion for military activities, $5.7 billion to train and equip Iraqi military and police officers, and $5 billion to speed the restructuring of Army brigades.

The supplemental billions is in addition to the Pentagon’s $419.3 billion budget for fiscal 2006, which starts Oct.1.

Boyce said the reason for the shortfall is the cost of the war — “more than $5 billion a month on Army operations and the war,” he said.

Asked why the money approved by Congress last year didn’t cover it for the last third of the fiscal year, Boyce said, “You can never accurately project war expenses.”

author picture
Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

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