Army officials think the service cannot make the sequester cuts without furloughs. The Army bears the major responsibility for wrapping up combat operations in Afghanistan and removing troops and equipment by the end of 2014. “The Army has taken the brunt in Afghanistan,” Hagel told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The Army estimates that it would save more than $727 million with two weeks of furloughs for approximately 250,000 civilians. If the furloughs are not allowed, the cuts would instead potentially “eat up $700 million” needed for other operations, Gen. John Campbell, vice chief of staff for the Army, told the Senate committee .
Stopping civilian furloughs is less of a priority for the Army than supporting troops in Afghanistan and being prepared for contingencies in places such as North Korea, he said. “We just have to rack and stack that way,” Campbell said.
The Marine Corps also faces high war costs, but because its budget is part of the Navy Department, it does not have the same fiscal constraints.
The Air Force estimates that it will save $409 million by furloughing its 180,000 civilians for 14 days. To save money, the service is standing down 13 fighter and bomber squadrons, and is reluctant to cut any further. “We’re already curtailing flying hours to the point that we’re in uncharted waters,” said Lt. Col. John Dorrian, an Air Force spokesman.
Part of the dilemma for the Air Force is that civilian furloughs will have a direct impact on the readiness of aircraft. At a hearing last week before a House Armed Services subcommittee, the Air Force warned that furloughs will be “especially crippling” at its maintenance depots, where 77 percent of the workforce is civilian.
Brandon Copeland, a planner with the 564th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma, faces furlough along with his wife, who works for another squadron at the base. “It’s really a double hit on our income,” said Copeland, 33, who noted that he and his wife have two children in day care.
But Copeland expressed more concern about the impact furloughs will have on the work of his squadron in maintaining KC-135 refueling aircraft, which he said would have to spend more time grounded.
“It will make a tremendous difference in how quickly we can do our job,” he said. “This aircraft is essential to providing global reach for the Air Force.”
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