AUGUSTA, Maine — The Pentagon has notified Congress it may have to furlough its civilian workforce of 800,000 employees, including close to 600 in Maine, if sequestration goes into effect on March 1.
Sequestration refers to mandatory cuts in the federal budget that will take effect if the White House and Congress cannot reach a budget deal. Coupled with the fact that there is no approved Defense Department Budget for this year, which already places significant financial restrictions on the military, sequestration will be potentially very damaging to the Maine National Guard, according to a press release from Gov. Paul LePage’s office released late Monday afternoon.
If sequestration takes effect, activated Maine soldiers and airmen will continue to receive support, but the ability of the Maine National Guard to provide forces and equipment necessary to support future federal war-fighting obligations or a sustained disaster recovery effort will be significantly degraded.
“With National Guard armories and facilities in numerous communities throughout Maine, the impact will be immediate and felt across the entire state,” said Gov. LePage. “These cuts will degrade military readiness, the safety of Maine’s citizens and hurt Maine’s economy. I am especially concerned about the effect that these cuts may have on our military families and the support given to our soldiers and airmen when they return from deployments. Across-board-spending cuts are not the best way to reduce spending. I strongly urge the President and Congress to find smarter, bipartisan ways to cut spending, and continue to grow our economy.”
The National Guard Bureau has not yet provided a specific plan to the Maine National Guard to address the effects of sequestration; however, certain measures are under active consideration, including furloughs of some employees and significant cuts to training, equipment maintenance and facilities upgrades.
“These potential cuts may require the department to furlough over 570 federally funded civilian employees for an average of one day per week for up to 22 weeks beginning April 25,” said Peter Rogers, communications director for the Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management. “This equates to a 20 percent cut in pay and days of lost time, which will definitely have a negative effect on military readiness.”
“We are deeply concerned about the devastating effects of furloughs and cuts on our readiness, modernization and the consequent ability of our Soldiers, Airmen and civilians to perform our State and Federal missions,” said Brig. Gen. James D. Campbell, adjutant general of Maine.
For example, the 101st Air Refueling Wing in Bangor may have to ground aircraft due to reduced flying hours and maintenance support. Army Guard units across the state may not be able maintain their vehicles, helicopters and other critical equipment, or adequately train soldiers for combat, he said in the press release.
“I am concerned that this will have an immediate impact on our ability to respond to domestic emergencies and in the long term will significantly degrade our readiness for combat and other overseas missions,” Campbell said.
“In the event of sequestration, this department will do everything possible to be able to continue to perform our core mission of providing for the safety and security of the people of the State of Maine and for the United States,” Campbell said. “But there is no mistaking that the rigid nature of the cuts forced upon us, and the scale of those cuts, combined with the already negative effects of the lack of an approved federal budget, will result in a serious erosion of readiness across the force.”