June 21, 2018
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Pentagon delays furlough decision that could affect 6,800 Defense Department employees in Maine

By Whit Richardson, BDN Staff

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon will delay a decision of how many of its 800,000-strong civilian workforce, including nearly 7,000 workers in Maine, will face unpaid furloughs as a result of sequestration, Reuters is reporting.

A Pentagon spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Elizabeth Robbins, told Reuters the decision will be delayed for two weeks to give the Department of Defense time to analyze the effect of a 2013 fiscal year funding measure approved by Congress that is now before President Barack Obama.

The Department of Defense told Congress in late February that it would have to place its civilian workforce on unpaid leave if $46 billion in mandatory budget cuts, also known as sequestration, were allowed to go into effect.

The Defense Department employs roughly 6,800 civilian employees in Maine who could be affected by the furloughs, including 4,700 at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, roughly 530 with the Maine National Guard and 600 at its Defense Finance and Accounting Service office in Limestone.

The Maine Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management on Wednesday sent notices to the 533 technicians who are civilian employees of the Defense Department working for the Maine Army and Air National Guard that they would be placed on unpaid leave for 22 work days between April and September, according to Peter Rogers, a spokesman for the agency.

However, the agency will be recalling those notices, he said, after receiving a directive on Thursday from the Defense Department to hold off on issuing any furlough notices and recall any notices that had already gone out.

U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King said in a joint statement Thursday afternoon that they were encouraged by the delay in implementing furlough days, but still are upset that the president and Congress had not reached a deal yet to replace the “mindless” sequestration cuts with a more responsible, long-term deficit-reduction plan.

“Jobs are being threatened — jobs that provide financial security for Maine workers and health insurance for their families,” the senators said in the statement. “It is absolutely irresponsible that these hardworking men and women face the uncertainty and consequences of cuts that the president and Congress could prevent.”

Both said they would continue to push for a bipartisan resolution.

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