Military furloughs ahead in Mississippi


JACKSON — Maj. Gen. Augustus L. Collins, the adjutant general of Mississippi, was to release details Thursday of upcoming furloughs among more than 1,400 full-time National Guard employees across Mississippi.

Collins said beginning July 8 and continuing through Sept. 30, the affected employees will take 11 additional days off, which for most will be Mondays. He said the furloughs will result in about a 20 percent reduction in pay.

"These furloughs will in no way impact the Mississippi National Guard’s ability to respond to any natural or man-made disasters here in the state," Collins said. "We’ll be able to handle those just as we’ve been able to in the past."

Collins said the largest group of people affected is in Jackson, because that’s where the headquarters is located. He said he’s held meetings with employees to keep them updated on the furloughs, which Collins said were expected.

The furloughs include the Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center south of Hattiesburg (290 people); the Combat Readiness Training Center and 1108th Theater Aviation Sustainment Maintenance Group in Gulfport (148); Army National Guard Training Site at Camp McCain (83); 186th Air Refueling Wing in Meridian (236); Joint Force Headquarters and 172nd Airlift Wing in Jackson (524); and the Army Aviation Support Facility in Tupelo (76).

Gov. Phil Bryant expressed disappointment that the action had to be taken.

"These furloughs are disappointing to the men and women who are working to protect the very freedoms we hold dear," Bryant said.

The cuts are part of across-the-board federal budget reductions known as the sequester that went into effect on March 1.

The Defense Department announced this month that it will furlough about 680,000 of its civilian employees across the country, allowing only limited exceptions for the military.

Overall, defense officials say that about 15 percent of the department’s civilian workforce will be exempt from the furloughs.

The furloughs also will affect civilian employees at military bases across Mississippi.

U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that the furloughs will affect about 5,600 civilian workers at the Mississippi bases.

"It is unconscionable that the Obama Administration is issuing furloughs to the brave men and women who protect our nation instead of cutting wasteful spending. There is no doubt our country’s national and economic security depends on reducing high levels of federal debt. However, it is imperative that we not compromise the readiness of our brave men and women in uniform.

"The Senate Armed Services Committee will soon begin consideration of the 2014 Defense Authorization Bill. I will use that opportunity to protect our troops in Mississippi from unwarranted furloughs and strengthen our national security posture," Wicker said.

U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., said he expects a House committee to take up a similar bill that he supports. He said the bill would include military technicians in a Department of Defense furlough exemption.

"These defense cuts are more than damaging: they are senseless. While I’ve fought to replace them altogether, I’ve also introduced legislation that would keep the current DOD policy consistent by protecting military technicians from furloughs in the same way as other uniformed, deployable personnel," Palazzo said.

The Associated Press