Sequester furloughs set to begin this week at Tacoma's military base

Tacoma News TribuneJuly 8, 2013 

Unpaid furloughs for thousands of workers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord will cause restrictions on Army training and halt the basic administration of running the largest military installation on the West Coast for the next 11 Fridays, according to an operations plan released by the base.

The detailed plan fleshes out statements base commander Col. Charles Hodges made last month in which he said Lewis-McChord would concentrate its Pentagon-mandated furloughs on Fridays. It shows furloughs cutting access to everything from firing ranges to substance-abuse counseling.

“The furlough reduces our ability to support service members, those men and women who have sacrificed and continue to sacrifice in support of our nation’s national security objectives, including their families and our retirees,” Hodges said at his news conference last month.

More than 10,000 civilian employees at Lewis-McChord are scheduled to start taking one unpaid day off each week for 11 weeks between Monday and Sept. 30. The furloughs are one of the ways the Pentagon is cutting costs because of the forced federal spending reductions known as sequestration.

Friday office closures will hit Lewis-McChord’s Waller Hall, where military service members check in when they arrive for assignments at the base to receive identification cards and learn how to get settled in Washington state.

Other Friday office closures include:

• Substance-abuse services, such as drug testing, clinical services and suicide prevention. Employees will be on hand for emergencies.

• Military-run academic courses will shut down at the Stone, Hawk and McChord education centers. Furloughs do not impact courses led by outside organizations, such as Pierce College.

• Housing services for military service members who live off-base will close. The private company that manages on-base housing, Equity Residential, will stay open on Fridays.

• The Army’s main helicopter airfield will close on Fridays, except for state emergencies and rescues at Mount Rainier. This move restricts Army aviation training opportunities.

• Firing ranges will close after 6 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays.

• A range of Morale, Welfare and Readiness programs will close on Fridays, such as soldier and family assistance centers, financial counseling and outreach services to survivors of fallen troops.

• Troops will also experience delays receiving ammunition, equipment maintenance and transportation for personnel and equipment.

Lewis-McChord commissaries are subject to furloughs, but they are closing on Mondays instead of Fridays.

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