Furlough days reduced for Fort McCoy employees

Civilian employees at Fort McCoy won’t have to take as many unpaid days off this year as initially expected.

The workers will have six furlough days, rather than 11. The furloughs were part of the federal budget cuts earlier this year, but Department of Defense officials said they were able to find about $1.5 billion in savings so that the furloughs could end early.

“It was welcome news to the employees,” said Linda Fournier, Fort McCoy’s public affairs officer. She said most of the 1,500 civilian employees at the base will complete their furlough days by next week.

Since early July, civilian employees at Fort McCoy, Volk Field and Camp Williams have had to take an unpaid day off each week. About 700 Wisconsin National Guard employees are also affected by the furloughs.

Even so, guard members and equipment were still always ready if needed, although priorities might have to shift, Guard spokesman Major Paul Rickert said.

“Having those furloughs reduced will have a great impact, not only on their ability to get their jobs done but also on a personal level from financial hardship,” Rickert said.

The furloughs stemmed from the automatic $85 billion in federal budget cuts that took effect in March after Congress couldn’t agree on ways to reduce the national deficit by $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years. If the stalemate doesn’t end, the Pentagon could still face another $54 billion in cuts for 2014 and $500 billion over the next decade.

Because of that, any relief over this week’s decision is tempered by the knowledge that a new round of reductions could come when the 2014 fiscal year starts in October, Fournier said.

“I think everyone thought for 2013 it would never get to that point,” she said. “Hopefully, people are talking to Congress” about avoiding a repeat for next year.