Arsenal preparing for possible furloughs

If Congress fails to strike a deal on budget cuts set to take effect Friday, thousands could lose their jobs and several employees at the Pine Bluff Arsenal could be furloughed.

“Pine Bluff Arsenal is making preparations for a potential furlough of its civilian workforce for 22 non-consecutive days, beginning the week of April 22 … and continuing until the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30,” according to the arsenal’s commander, Col. David L. Musgrave.

“All of the 860 civilian employees could be impacted by the furlough,” the officer added in a response Tuesday to an inquiry posed by The Commercial Monday.

Musgrave is out of town and “I had to wait on his response,” said Cheryl Avery, civilian spokesman for the arsenal.

If sequestration goes into effect Friday, the Pentagon plans for sequestration include a $23 million reduction to the arsenal, a cut of $9.4 million to Fort Chaffee in Fort Smith and $17.8 million to Camp Robinson in North Little Rock, The Commercial’s Washington Bureau was advised earlier.

However, The Commercial was unable to confirm the proposed $23 million reduction for the arsenal locally.

The Arkansas National Guard would lose $13.3 million and the Arkansas Army Reserve $6.82 million, the Pentagon said.

The Air Force and Army also plan to furlough civilian employees likely one day a week for up to 22 weeks starting in late April. A projected 2,782 Arkansans would lose $19.6 million in wages.

Defense Comptroller Robert Hale said the military furloughs would save between $4 billion and $5 billion, leaving another $40 billion to be extracted from cutbacks in weapons purchases, service contracts and other Pentagon spending, the Washington Bureau was told.

The federal cuts, divided between defense and domestic programs, were designed back in 2011 to be an unpalatable time bomb to force policy makers to reach a compromise on reducing the nation’s deficit.