Sequester may impact 352 Camp Ripley employees

One day a week furlough planned

By Terry Lehrke, News Editor

Just as federal employees in Washington, D.C. will be affected by the sequestration, so too will 352 employees at Camp Ripley in Little Falls.

Employees at Camp Ripley are put into categories of employment — full-time Active Guard and Reserve (AGR), state employees and federal employees.

The full-time AGR and state employees will not be affected by federal budget cuts that will take place through sequestration.

Lt. Col. Jon Lovald, the director of the human resources office (HRO) for the state of Minnesota National Guard, said the federal employees are a bit different than the federal employees found in Washington, D.C.

“In Washington, you’ll have a lot of Army, Air Force, Marine and Navy personnel, but many of those offices are augmented by the Department of the Army, or Department of Defense (DOD) civilians and all of those people will be affected by sequestration,” he said.

But at Camp Ripley, he said, “We have our tech force, people paid just like DOD civilians in Washington or on an active duty base or fort, except that they’re also National Guard members. So although they’re paid at the same scale as their civilian counterparts, they wear a uniform to work and those individuals will be affected by sequestration,” Lovald said.

He said it’s a little bit complicated in that there are three different types of employees at Camp Ripley.

Contract employees also work at Camp Ripley, but they will not be affected, he said.

Lovald works with 63 different communities in the state where the National Guard and Air National Guard operate.

In those communities, he said 54 percent, about 1,169 people, are full-time federal technicians; one-third employed at Camp Ripley.

“The furlough for federal military technicians and civilian employees who work in those different communities will be affected,” he said.

The definition of a “federal technician” has nothing to do with a technical-specific job. “It’s just a code under which the funding comes to pay for them,” he said.

He said, “Every department has some technicians and some AGRs working in it. If you walk into one office, you’ll see four people in uniform, but can’t see by looking at them which are technicians and which are AGRs.”

Lovald said the furlough may be one day a week off without pay.

“We are preparing to notify them,” he said. And, because they are federal technicians and also members of a federal union, Lovald said his department has to work with the unions as well.

The continuing resolution ends March 27, Lovald said. “We’re using a planning date of no later than March 22 to provide the 30-day notice to when furlough would begin, April 22,” he said.

“We definitely hope the government can come up with a solution or at least a fix,” he said. “One fact out there is that all uniformed members of the military or AGR or active duty are exempted, but that blanket exemption didn’t cover federal technicians,” he said. “There is a bill out there requesting the current bill be expanded (to include federal technicians as exempt).”

The impact on each individual, regardless of how the furlough would be implemented, whether one day a week or any other manner, he said, will equate to a 20 percent reduction of any federal technician’s paycheck.

“For anybody living paycheck to paycheck it would be difficult to take a 20 percent reduction,” said Lovald.

The Minnesota National Guard is given a federal mandate as to the number of people to be hired, said Lovald.

Major John Donovan at Camp Ripley said the federal mandate is based on a “troops to task” analysis and upon the amount of work that each position is expected and verified to do.

“So, through coordination of our office, we hire those federal technicians. They are not trained differently,” Lovald said. “They receive a slightly different processing because of the different statuses we are in, but we have to attend the same schools depending upon which job we have to do.”

The payroll for the Air and Army National Guard, which fluctuates, is projected at $58 million for this year for the state, said Lovald.

At the beginning of the year, the federal government provides a portion of the projected payroll. “How it’s working this year is that they’re telling us that they’re not going to pay us the rest of the money required to fulfill the payment,” said Lovald. “What normally happens every year is that they give us a percentage at the beginning and as we get close to the end of the year, they make adjustments and fund us the rest of the way.”

Not this year, if the current sequestration is not changed.

Even with savings through furlough, Lovald said the cuts for the state of Minnesota will still be well below what is needed to pay this year’s payroll.

The bottom line, he said, is, “By furloughing all of our federal technicians, the Minnesota National Guard will still have a difference to pay for the payroll.”

That leaves the state and federal governments having to look to other sources to try to make up that difference, he said.

Lovald said any other areas where money can be saved to make up the difference will be considered.

Where it will be made up has yet to be answered, he said, whether the money will come from operations or capital improvements.

Col. Bruce Jensen said there may be potential impact to some projects on Camp Ripley.

Jensen said, “We are looking at those projects which are critical, i.e.: building envelope protection, safety-related items, etc., and trying to program those with our existing funds. Those projects that are not as critical and can be deferred, may be delayed until next year to execute.”

“We’ll have to adjust to the amount of work that can get done during the furlough,” Lovald said. “It will be greatly reduced.”

The Minnesota National Guard 2012 annual report shows Camp Ripley receives $45.085 million in federal pay and expenditure funding and $1.77 million in state pay and expenditures.