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Possibility for Civilian Furloughs

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- We're starting to get more information regarding the impacts of sequestration, specifically some of the details regarding the possibility of civilian furloughs. DOD has officially notified Congress that furloughs will occur if sequestration goes into effect on March 1. We're still hoping for a resolution to the issues and elimination of sequestration, but if it occurs, we all need to be prepared.

To help keep you informed, we've created a site at www.AFSC.af.mil where we'll post the latest information. Please don't hesitate to also ask questions of your supervisors, directors, commanders and, if appropriate, your civic leadership, about the potential impacts of sequestration. This is the time to over communicate!

If the civilian workforce is furloughed:

· Furlough duration: First, enacting civilian unpaid furloughs is a measure of last resort. If it does occur, the most likely option is one day per week for the last 22 weeks of the fiscal year (late April through September) for a total of 22 work days (176 hours). One day per week (eight hours) equals a 20 percent reduction in pay for each individual DOD civilian worker during the furlough period.

· Notification: If furloughs occur, the workforce will be notified by management at least 30 days prior to the initial furlough. OPM will decide which days personnel will be furloughed.

· Exemptions: If sequestration occurs, most civilians will be furloughed with few exceptions: (1) those deployed in a combat zone, (2) those who protect the safety of life or property to the extent needed, (3) non-appropriated fund employees (NAF), (4) those exempt by law who hold a presidential appointment with Senate confirmation, (5) foreign nationals and (6) those exempted as approved by a 2-star flag officer or higher.

· Leave: Furlough time off is treated like regular leave without pay for leave accrual and benefit purposes. When employees are in a non-pay status (like a furlough) their retirement deductions are adjusted in proportion to their basic pay.

· Thrift Savings Plan: Regarding the Thrift Savings Plan, employees who have selected their TSP contribution to be a percentage of their pay will see smaller contributions during the furlough period due to their reduced pay. Employees who have selected a fixed amount for their TSP contribution will see the same amount deducted during the furlough period.

· Financial hardships: We understand furloughs may result in unexpected financial difficulty for civilian personnel and their families, but financial difficulties are not grounds for a supervisor to waive an employee's furlough. Employees should start planning immediately for reduced paychecks beginning in April.

· Healthcare: The Government's portion of the healthcare premiums will be paid in full and on time, and benefits will continue for furloughed employees. See the OPM website at www.opm.gov for more information.

· Outside employment: While on furlough, individuals remain employed by the Federal Government; therefore, standards of ethical conduct and rules regarding outside employment are applicable. Before engaging in outside employment, employees should consult their agency ethics official.

There is still an opportunity for Congress to pass a balanced deficit-reduction plan that the President can sign and sequestration is truly averted (not just delayed). Not only is the current situation devastating to our personnel, we know that furloughs will substantially harm our ability to reset and restore the force's full-spectrum combat capability after over a decade of hard fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Through it all, we must ensure our long term viability in defense of this nation, which means we have to retain focus on speed, safety and quality. We want to ensure we don't lose the gains you've made as a Center. If we lose our competitive edge, it could lead to longer term impacts than what are initially posed by sequestration. It is vital we sustain our priority on the mission as we continue to seek new workloads and support the warfighter.

I will keep you informed as decisions are made on these difficult issues. I want to thank you for your patience, hard work and your continued dedication to our nation's defense.