SEATTLE — They have been dreaded for months, and now they’re here. Defense furloughs started this week for thousands across Washington. And Friday, they are going to hit the biggest installation of all, Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
These forced days-off amount to a 20% salary cut that hits families at an extremely tough time. They are part of the federal sequestration that took effect earlier this year when Democrats and Republicans couldn’t agree on a budget plan.
The unpaid furlough days are for civilian military employees only, but because they provide crucial support roles, having them gone one day a week is going to be very hard on those in uniform.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., went on the floor of the Senate to express frustration that these big cuts couldn’t be averted.
“The furloughs are going to hurt our soldiers,” Murray said. “They are going to limit their access to medical care. They are going to cut back on the family support programs. And they are going to make it tougher to find a job when they finish their military careers.”
Thousands are going to be affected in bases such as Fairchild over in Eastern Washington and the Naval Air Station on Whidbey Island. But by far, the biggest effects are at the state’s biggest base, JBLM.
JBLM Furlough Highlights:
- 6,700 civilian employees won’t be coming to work Friday
- This includes: aircraft trainers and mechanics, doctors, military support
- Every Friday from now until Sept. 30.
- It amounts to a 20% pay cut
These forced pay cuts add up to tens of millions of dollars in lost wages to thousands of military support families. That’s going to be hard on them and on local companies that depend on JBLM business.
If Congress does not come up with a new budget plan, another round of furloughs are expected after the start of the new fiscal year, Oct. 1.
These cuts are on top of a planned troop reduction of 5,000 at JBLM over the next few years because of the end of the Iraq war and the wind-down of the war in Afghanistan.