Va. Guard to recall most federal employees previously furloughed due to partial government shutdown

vaguardlogoSANDSTON, Va. — The Virginia National Guard will recall nearly all of the approximately 550 dual-status military technicians and civilian federal employees who received furlough notices Oct. 1, 2013, after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Oct. 5 that the Department of Defense is recalling many of its roughly 400,000 civilian employees. The recall comes after DoD legal review of the “Pay Our Military Act,” signed by President Barack Obama that gave Hagel the authority to bring employees back to work.

“DOD and DOJ attorneys concluded that the law does allow the Department of Defense to eliminate furloughs for employees whose responsibilities contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities and readiness of service members,” Hagel said in a DoD news release.

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.

DMA agreed to pay 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 will pay 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.

“I am glad to see our federal employees return to work, but I won’t be satisfied until all of our employees are back on the job,” said Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia. “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 begin to have an impact on our readiness.”

Long commended the Guard’s senior staff for their extraordinary effort in working through all the issues related to the furlough, but particularly acknowledged the patience and support of the Guard’s employees and families.

“This has been hard on everyone, and the fiscal uncertainty takes a toll on our employees and their families,” Long said. “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. We will continue to engage with state and federal elected officials to do all they can do to bring the government shutdown to a rapid conclusion.”

There is a chance the state funds used to pay the DMA employee salaries could be reimbursed by the federal government once the shutdown has ended, but there is no guarantee.

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

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 be started. 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.

Fort Pickett will support limited hunting on Oct. 8. The Controlled Access Area is closed but other areas not impacted by scheduled training will be open. Since there is no guarantee of access to hunting areas on Fort Pickett when the government is open, the post will not provide any form of full or partial refunds for lack of hunting opportunities associated with the shutdown.

At Camp Pendleton in Virginia Beach, the Commonwealth ChalleNGe program for at-risk high school students remains open because the funding is allocated for a two year period. As with Fort Pickett, all training will be halted unless it is to prepare for an upcoming mobilization but the billeting office remains open.

The payment of pay and allowances for all personnel is subject to appropriations approved by Congress.

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 procurement like repair parts or fuel.