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JOINT BASE ANACOSTIA-BOLLING, D.C. – A heavy contingent of employees from Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling (JBAB) turned out in force March 20 for an important town hall meeting at the Bolling Club to hear discussion on the looming Department of Defense (DoD) budget cuts, which include a mandatory reduction in force (RIF), as well as the possibility of government furloughs stemming from sequestration.

Tom McGuire, executive director for Naval District Washington (NDW), stated there’s close to a billion dollar shortfall for the Commander, Navy Installation Command (CNIC) come 2014 if government sequestration were to stick. To prepare the NDW workforce for the hard times ahead, McGuire noted that several measures have already been taken to alleviate some of that pressure.

While performing their own cost analysis, McGuire and his team found that NDW was spending more money than it actually had in certain areas. As soon as that problem was solved, budget analysts turned their attention to reshaping the overall region and began downsizing by voluntary means rather than involuntary.

“Our first step was to reduce management overhead. Once that was accomplished, we began to reduce overtime,” McGuire said. “We made a lot of progress there, as it was discovered that NDW was spending nearly seven million dollars in overtime. That number is now two million.”

The third step was regionalizing some NDW functions – not its employees. Examples were fire, emergency communication dispatching and explosive safety. This approach, as McGuire explained, would allow for the core job to get done by using the least amount of resources. This wasn’t the only good news.

During a previous visit to JBAB, McGuire said there would be a RIF of about 80 positions to the region. Based on what’s been accomplished so far, in addition to allowing voluntary early retirement authority and voluntary incentive separation payouts (VERA/VISP) during 2012, that number is now down to 40. NDW was also careful about bringing aboard new people and decided to fill whatever positions they had from within.

“It was once 80 and that number is still shrinking with several months to fine tune this. We currently have about 40 people who have indicated interest for another VERA/VISP from around the region,” McGuire said. “Not all will be eligible, but some will. That will chip away at that number of involuntary separations even more.”

McGuire mentioned the RIF is driven by budget numbers from the original DoD cuts put in place by President Barack Obama and then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates more than a year ago. It’s in no way related to sequestration. The furloughs, however, are related to sequestration and that is a “unique thing” just for 2013, he said.

Wendy Blankenship, regional program director of NDW’s Human Resource Office (HRO), said less than six percent of the total Navy workforce is exempt from a furlough. In NDW, most firefighters are exempt, as are emergency dispatchers and some police. A decision is still pending on childcare professionals, she said.

“Furlough days are intermittent and can’t be taken all at once. No one can earn compensatory time during the furlough period and overtime is not permitted,” Blankenship continued. “The use of alternative work schedules is also suspended, as is telework. Though, telework for mission requirements has been left open. That lies with the commanding officer of the joint base.”

Blankenship reiterated that employees can’t work on a furlough day. They can’t send emails after work and contractors can’t perform work in their place.

“There are many days off from now until September, if furloughs go that long,” Blankenship said. “Proposal letters related to this will be issued to employees beginning March 22.”

The furlough period begins April 26 and could run until Sept. 30. Furloughs are not to exceed 176 hours or 22 days. If the furlough period ends early, termination letters stating such will be sent out to employees. By law, no one can use personal leave or compensatory time earned as a substitute for a furlough day, Blankenship said.

“The most you’ll lose during the furlough period is two full days of leave. This is an administrative furlough. All non-appropriated funds employees are exempt,” she told those in attendance. “It’s important to note there are two holidays during this period – Memorial Day and Labor Day. If that’s your furlough day, you will not get paid for the holiday.”

One question that came up during the town hall presentation was whether people can have the first Friday off in the pay period and the second Monday off. This approach would allow for a four-day weekend every two weeks. This would be a risk, according to Blankenship, if someone is in a non-pay status the work day before and work day after a holiday. Not only would an employee not get paid for the holiday, but that person would lose three days of pay for that period, she said.

“Right now under the continuing resolution, we have to operate with exactly the amount of money that’s in the operations pot to pay salaries,” McGuire said. “If this pending legislation becomes law, we can move money that was initially going towards airplanes, ships, buildings and homes into operating accounts to pay salaries and avoid a furlough.”

Felix Patterson, also of NDW’s HRO, said it’s the only region to offer anyone voluntary retirement. It’s also been proactive in implementing hiring restrictions. RIF notices go out June 26 to unions and all affected employees. There is a 60-day minimum notice for the RIF. NDW will also be conducting counseling and start its Priority Placement Program to help employees find new jobs, he said.

“We can’t speculate on what will happen with this pending legislation,” said JBAB Base Commander Navy Capt. Anthony T. Calandra. “It’s in our best interest to prepare. In the end, if favorable legislation occurs, we are ahead of the ballgame.”

Congressional action on the continuing resolution is still pending. For the latest updates, visit www.facebook.com/jointbase or www.twitter.com/jointbase.