FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla. — Civilian employees at local military bases began receiving furlough notices last week.
Most of the more than 5,300 civilians employed at Eglin Air Force Base and Hurlburt Field will be subject to up to 11 days of unpaid leave between July 8 and the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30.
The 11 furlough days are fewer than the 22 days originally proposed in March. It will save the Department of Defense about $1.8 billion.
The furloughs come in response to sequestration, a measure passed by Congress that requires the department to make steep budget cuts by the end of the fiscal year.
Bob and Brenda Koenigkramer, 56 and 46, respectively, work as civil servants at Eglin. They received furlough notices last week.
Each of their paychecks will be cut by about 20 percent over the three-month period.
Bob Koenigkramer said they have started to look at exactly how they will budget their finances to get through the furlough and how it will affect their annual leave, government savings plans and federal benefits.
“Now we need to get down to scratching it out on paper and making sure we budget for the actual cuts,” he said.
In past years they have taken a destination vacation over the summer, but this year they plan to visit family to save on hotel and other costs.
They have a 15-year-old daughter and likely will purchase back-to-school clothes for her during the furlough. They also plan to add her to the family’s car insurance and purchase a vehicle for her for when she turns 16.
“We’re going to hold off and wait until we are back on full pay again,” Bob Koenigkramer said.
He is an executive assistant for the Commanders Action Group. Brenda Koenigkramer works as a secretary for the 96th Test Wing.
They said they are at a point in their careers where they actually are able to save money, so they will be able to accommodate the furlough with cutbacks. However, they are concerned for younger employees who live paycheck to paycheck and can’t afford the reduced pay.
“Our adjustments are going to be painful, but a lot less painful than for a lot of people, especially our young people whose entire paychecks are committed to just surviving,” Bob said.
About 85 percent of the Department of Defense’s 767,000 civilian employees will be subject to the furlough.
Employees who are exempt include people working in combat zones, wounded warrior caregivers, full-time sexual assault prevention and response coordinators and those working as sexual assault victim advocates, according to the department.
Notices of the furlough began to go out May 28 and will continue through today.
When employees receive their notice, they have seven days to respond or appeal, according to letters sent to Eglin workers.
It will be up to each employee’s supervisor to determine how the furloughs will be implemented, but they cannot be taken continuously, according to the letters.
At Hurlburt Field, 1,600 employees will be required to take one unpaid day off a week during the furlough period, according to the 1st Special Operations Wing’s public affairs office.
Without those workers, some of Hurlburt’s units and programs will be disrupted, including family programs, research and development projects and military construction, the office said.
Commissaries at Hurlburt and Eglin will be closed an additional day a week to accommodate for the furlough.
The Koenigkramers’ said they are working with their supervisors and other civilian employees in their departments to determine how best to take their time off while maintaining the base’s mission.
They still hope the furlough period could be reduced further.
They have seen command staff working to save money. Thermostats have been set at 78 degrees and commanders have given up their military-issued vehicles.
“It’s obvious to us that leadership not only locally, but at the Air Force and DoD level are working to try to find ways to save money,” Bob said. “We’re hoping that our officials will continue to find cost-cutting measures that will allow them to consider reducing this even more.”
Defense officials are more cautious.
Uncertainty over whether sequestration will continue has made it difficult to know whether furloughs will continue into fiscal 2014, Jessica Wright, acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said in a news release last week.
Pentagon officials will do “everything in our power” not to have to furlough employees, she said.