Sequester will impact DOD's civilian workforce

By Andrew Pereira
Published On: Feb 15 2013 06:03:00 PM HST

The first phase of automatic budget cuts known as sequestration are less than two weeks away. If and when those cuts hit, the ripple effect will be far-reaching in Hawaii.

HONOLULU -

Lt. Gen. Terry Robling, commander for the U.S. Marine Corps in the Pacific, is preparing for automatic budget cuts mandated by Congress and known as sequestration.

An initial round of cuts worth $85 billion is scheduled to begin March 1, and as much as $1.2 trillion could be slashed from social programs and the military over 10 years if Democrats and Republicans in Congress fail to reach an agreement to end the sequester.

Robling said the initial cut of $85 billion will have a definite impact on 24,000 civilian workers employed under contract by the Marine Corps throughout the Pacific region.

"Here at Kaneohe unfortunately, that will probably entail some furloughs that will account for about 22 days between now and the end of the fiscal year," he said.

As next month's deadline approaches, every branch of the military is expected to be impacted by sequestration, including Hawaii's National Guard.

Hawaii Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Darryll Wong said furloughs would be scheduled in increments through the end of the federal fiscal year on Sept. 30 so as not to cause major disruptions.

"Most commanders here are going to spread it out, so that everything can hopefully continue as best we can," said Wong. "The National Guard is actually organized, trained and equipped using federal funds, so we come under the same guidance."

Wong plans on keeping programs intact that help National Guardsmen and their families deal with the stress of war, as well as extended deployments.

"We're just going to make sure those things are ramped up even more," he said. "It is going to impact us, but I think the more important thing is how we're going to deal with it."

Meanwhile, sequestration may also prove detrimental to programs and nonprofit groups that receive federal dollars through the city. Honolulu Councilman Ikaika Anderson said federal grants awarded to the city reached a high point of $22 million in recent years, and a low point of about $10 million in 2012.

"Our nonprofits who have come to rely on these monies, and have helped government provide services when we're not able to, their programs and their ability to provide these services are definitely going to be impacted," said Anderson.  "We just don't know how much yet."

However, some believe sequestration won’t usher in the type of doom and gloom that many are predicting. Christopher Preble of the Cato Institute wrote this last July:

“The reductions would only apply to FY 2013 budget authority, not outlays. The Pentagon and Congress will then have greater flexibility starting in FY 2014 to adjust the reductions under the BCA spending caps. In the meantime, many programs could continue on funding already authorized.”

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