AG provides update on impact of government shut down

Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long, Jr.

Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long, Jr.

To All Virginia National Guard Personnel and Families:

The lapse in federal appropriations that began Oct. 1, 2013, and led to a partial government shut down has been hard on everyone, and the fiscal uncertainty has taken a toll on our employees and their families. Every member of our state and federal workforce is a valued member of the team and plays an important role in our ability to support our fellow citizens in their time of need.

On Oct. 7, the Virginia National Guard recalled nearly all of the approximately 550 dual-status military technicians and civilian federal employees who received furlough notices Oct. 1. We did this after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Oct. 5 that the Department of Defense was recalling many of its roughly 400,000 civilian employees. The recall came after DoD legal review of the “Pay Our Military Act,” signed by President Barack Obama that gave Secretary Hagel the authority to bring employees back to work.

The recall does not include approximately 100 full-time state employees and 90 part-time wage employees supporting Virginia National Guard operations who received furlough notices Oct. 4, 2013. Approximately 180 of 270 full-time state employees and approximately 90 part-time state employees supporting Guard operations are reimbursed by federal funds that were not appropriated on Oct. 1, 2013. The Virginia Department of Military Affairs, the state agency that supervises the Virginia Army National Guard, Virginia Air National Guard and Virginia Defense Force, issued the furlough notices through supervisors. A large number of state employees impacted serve at the Fort Pickett Maneuver Training Center and Virginia Army National Guard Headquarters in Blackstone.

We paid the state employees for the first four days of the shutdown from an account in the state budget with limited funds and could not continue to pay them as the shutdown continues. Starting Oct. 5, DMA began paying salaries for 80 employees engaged in critical activities such as range operations support at Fort Pickett for units preparing for overseas mobilizations, telecommunications support, facilities management and fire service at Fort Pickett.

DMA will continue to pay the state portion of the health insurance and life insurance premiums appropriate for the furloughed employees.

We were glad to see our federal employees return to work, but we won’t be satisfied until all of our employees are back on the job. We need every member of our team back on the job to properly prepare for and execute our assigned missions.

The “Pay Our Military Act” does not restore funding for monthly drill training periods, which have been rescheduled for later in the year, nor does it provide funding for any other types of purchases like repair parts or fuel.

Throughout the entire furlough, we have maintained our ability to rapidly respond, but the personnel furlough and lack of appropriations for maintenance and training will soon impact our readiness.

Fort Pickett has reduced operations and is only supporting units preparing for upcoming federal overseas mobilizations and conducting operations related to safety, security and protection of property. Work on post facilities will only occur for emergency repairs to prevent further damage. No new work will start. The identification card office will be closed, though the fitness center, post exchange and billeting office will remain open as they are not supported with federal appropriated funds.

At Camp Pendleton in Virginia Beach, the Commonwealth ChalleNGe program for at-risk high school students remains open because the program is funded through June 2014 with Fiscal Year 2013 funds. As with Fort Pickett, all training will be halted unless it is to prepare for an upcoming mobilization but the billeting office remains open.

Once the President signs an appropriation or Congress passes a continuing resolution, we assume furloughed employees will report back to work. Further legislation is necessary for federal employees to receive retroactive pay for days lost to the shutdown. If that happens, National Guard Bureau has told us federal employees will be paid for the furlough time, and will not be charged for any leave that had been approved for days that became furlough days.

Under the Pay Our Military Act, Active Guard and Reserve Personnel, federal military technicians and Defense Department civilians will receive paychecks. Excepted employees – those who continued to work – will receive the full 80 hours of pay. Those initially furloughed will receive 48 hours of pay for the pay period covered by that payday, up to and including Sept. 30. Furloughed employees will receive pay for the four hours they worked Oct. 1 to implement the orderly shutdown once there a new appropriation or continuing resolution is in effect.

The Va. Guard staffs family assistance centers at several locations across the state and also has a financial advisor available to help any employee impacted by the furlough. The personnel staffing these functions are contractors paid by funds that were allocated prior to the shutdown. More information about the FACs is available at http://vaguard.dodlive.mil/fac/.

I want to commend the Virginia Guard’s senior staff for their extraordinary effort in working through all the issues related to the furlough, but I particularly want to thank all of our employees and their families for their the patience and support. We also owe a special debt of gratitude to the employers of our Soldiers and Airmen for their patience as we are forced to reschedule drill periods that were cancelled in October. In some cases, these drill periods may require Soldiers and Airmen to ask for time away from work not originally planned.

We will continue to engage with state and federal elected officials to encourage a rapid conclusion to the government shutdown.

Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long, Jr.
The Adjutant General of Virginia