By Matt Tomsic
Published Feb. 21, 2013
More than 2,000 civilian employees at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic in Charleston could be impacted by nationwide Department of Defense furloughs if Congress doesn’t reach an agreement to avoid spending cuts set to begin March 1.
The furloughs would be the result of sequestration, a congressional plan that calls for $500 billion in automatic across-the-board spending cuts if Congress doesn’t pass deficit reduction legislation.
Tommy Groves, a spokesman for SPAWAR, said the furloughs would impact the Lowcountry as they would the rest of the country. Groves said SPAWAR employs about 2,600 civilian workers.
On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the department is working with Congress to avoid sequestration, and President Barack Obama exempted military personnel from the furloughs.
“We have no legal authority to exempt civilian personnel funding from reductions,” Panetta said in a statement published on the Department of Defense’s website. “As a result, should sequestration occur and continue for a substantial period, (the Department of Defense) will be forced to place the vast majority of its civilian workforce on administrative furlough.”
Panetta said affected employees will receive at least a 30-day notice before the furloughs begin.
If sequestration happens, civilian workers will be forced to take 22 furlough days by the end of September, and the furloughs could affect 800,000 employees across the country.
“Employees will be forced to take what amounts to a 20% pay cut between now and the end of September,” said David Cox, the national president of the American Federation of Government Employees. “Taking away one day’s pay every week could mean the difference between covering the mortgage and putting food on the table.”