Fort Knox weighs impact of cuts as sequester looms

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No plans finalized on potential layoffs, furloughs

By Marty Finley

With no resolution on a federal budget and the possibility of across-the-board spending cuts, Fort Knox is strategizing about ways to manage budget cuts without harming its efficiency and essential functions.

No decision has been made on the need for layoffs or terminations and Media Relations Officer Kyle Hodges said a furlough of government civilians would be a drastic measure.

“There has been no decision at this time for any Fort Knox Army civilians to be furloughed, as that is a tool of last resort that also requires approval of the Secretary of the Army,” Hodges said Wednesday in an email.

Hodges said the Army has instructed the post to plan accordingly for potential financial impacts because of the budget uncertainty and the possibility of deep cuts.

Congress acted to postpone the automatic triggering of about $1 trillion in sweeping domestic and defense budget cuts until March 1. The automatic cuts would equate to around $500 billion of reductions in Pentagon spending over a 10-year span. Congress postponed action as it sought a resolution on less disruptive spending cuts.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned the cuts could lead to furloughed workers, scaled back naval operations and depletion of overall combat readiness.

Panetta has said the Pentagon would be facing a roughly $46 billion cut in the first year alone, which could lead to the furlough of hundreds of thousands of civilian workers and thousands more layoffs of temporary and contract workers.

Hodges said Fort Knox is exerting caution in the development of flexible and reversible plans should they be needed.

“Planning is under way here at Fort Knox to identify areas to help mitigate our budget risks,” he said. “Those identified areas must also be reversible and recoverable, and to the extent feasible, minimize any harmful effects on the readiness of our units, programs, soldiers and families.”

Should terminations be administered, they would range depending on the command, Hodges said.

“Decisions regarding termination of term and temporary Army civilians differ by command based on mission requirements,” he said. “Regarding Fort Knox Garrison Command term and temporary Army civilians, in particular, they will be able to continue their employment through the remainder of their appointment periods.”

Meanwhile, the battle over the federal budget has resumed with the U.S. House, which is controlled by Republicans, passing a bill this week pressuring Obama to present a balanced budget.

U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Bowling Green, blasted Obama Wednesday for his failure to deliver the budget on time.

“The bottom line is that Washington has a spending problem,” Guthrie said in a written statement. “Our country can’t afford the annual trillion dollar deficits that have become the norm under President Obama, and we must balance the budget. It is clear, left to his own devices, President Obama will not focus on the budget or our nation’s path toward fiscal responsibility.”

The White House largely dismissed the bill, saying a substantive budget is more important than a deadline.

Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com.