Sequester Showdown Could Mean Furloughs For Oklahoma National Guard

Tuesday, March 5th 2013, 6:05 pm
By: Craig Day

The sequester showdown could mean a dramatic drop in funding for Oklahoma's National Guard. If a solution isn't reached in Washington, more than 1,000 Oklahoma guard employees face furloughs as soon as next month.

It would be hard for any of us to take a 20 percent pay cut, but that will happen soon for more than $1,000 military men and women in Oklahoma if lawmakers don't find a sequester solution. While lawmakers argue over a compromise, many full-time National Guard employees are facing tough decisions in their family budgets.

"You just don't know what's going on," said Major Geoff Legler, Oklahoma National Guard.

Automatic sequester cuts won't impact civilian guard employees or active guard and reserve members. But full-time guard members called federal technicians, whose salaries are paid with federal funds, will be furloughed. They do everything from accounting to aircraft maintenance.

3/1/2013 Related Story: Tulsa Public Schools Stand To Lose Nearly $1 Million In Sequestration

"That's our full-time civil service personnel who are also uniform wearers," said Colonel Tracy Spencer, Oklahoma National Guard.

The Oklahoma National Guard faces a 12.7 percent cut due to the automatic spending cuts. It means more than 1,000 of those employees will each face 22 furlough days.

"You're talking about 20 percent of an individuals pay. And anybody out there in the work force can't afford to lost 20 percent of their pay," said Major Geoff Legler.

Major Geoff Legler says the cuts will not only hurt families, they'll impact training and readiness.

"When you're talking about two days out of every pay period, it basically comes down to one day a week that you're going to lose 1,086 employees out of your organization - that's work that's not getting done," he said.

Colonel Tracy Spencer with the Air National Guard says a 30 percent cut is also anticipated for facility maintenance.

3/1/2013 Related Story: Budget Cuts Will Affect OK Airports, Senior Nutrition Programs

"If you defer maintenance on a building or even a home for a period of time, the longer you go without doing maintenance, the higher the cost is going to be when you do have to pick those repairs back up," he said.

Colonel Spencer hopes lawmakers give the Guard more flexibility and leeway with funds to strategically cover the cost of things that are most critical.

"It's tough and knowing that some of those individuals, especially those at the lower grades, may not have the savings to be able to weather the storm," Spencer said.

Military leaders in Oklahoma say the cuts won't impact recruitment efforts at least for now, but could impact enlistment bonuses in the future.

The furlough days would begin in April and run through September.