Dept. of Defense Employees Begin Furloughs in MT - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Dept. of Defense Employees Begin Furloughs in MT

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GREAT FALLS -

More than 650,000 civilian employees will live on 20% less pay over the next three months, as the Department of Defense carries out automatic federal budget cuts.

In Montana, about 1,100 DoD employees will feel the effects of the sequester, starting Monday.

Half of those workers are at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls.

Most of those employees will be furloughed for one eight-hour shift per week through the end of September.

Malmstrom officials said they were prepared, but now they have less time to do their jobs each week.

Staff Sergeant Robert Biermann said it's already been an adjustment since many civilian employees at Malmstrom start their work weeks on Tuesdays.

Biermann said, "And here in our office, you know, we're missing several employees, and when I came in this morning, all the lights were off, all the desks were empty, so you can kind of imagine how it might feel."

Many federal agencies avoided furloughs, but the Defense Department needed to cut back shifts in order to meet the federal budget cuts forced by the sequester. Biermann said all Malmstrom departments staffed by civilian employees will be affected at Malmstrom for the next three months.

"Maybe longer wait times, fewer personnel available to provide necessary services to people that come in and out," he said.

About 600 National Guard employees are also being furloughed along with Malmstrom employees. That means helicopter pilots and mechanics, pay and finance clerks and others will get an extra day off, but will not receive any pay.

"These civilians are a huge piece in the mission here and helping ensure that we get things done and we get them done successfully," Biermann said.

Commissaries -- or military supermarkets -- on bases nationwide are also now closed on Mondays.

Biermann said the furloughs create some obstacles for military departments trying to function with fewer people, but they've been preparing for the cuts for weeks.
 
"It's important for everyone to understand that it's not going to slow us from completing our unique mission, this mission that we have here that's vital to national security," Biermann said.

The furloughs in Montana are expected to save the Defense Department about $3.2 million dollars.

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