Civilian workers at USFK may face sequester layoffs
Published : 2013-03-04 20:02
Updated : 2013-03-04 20:02
Most civilian workers at the United States Forces Korea may face a furlough in the coming months as the U.S. government’s automatic spending cuts, including a drastic reduction in defense spending, have taken effect, military officials said Monday.
Gen. James Thurman, the USFK commander, sent a letter on Feb. 27 to about 10,000 civilian personnel to notify them that they may be placed on periods of unpaid leave if the automatic spending cuts, the so-called “sequester,” take effect.
His letter came one week after the Pentagon had warned Congress of widespread civilian furloughs if the $85 billion in automatic spending cuts came into force on March 1. The furloughs could come in the form of a four-day workweek.
“The Department of Defense (DoD) is faced with unprecedented fiscal uncertainty in Fiscal Year 2013. I am deeply concerned about the potential direct impact of sequestration on our civilian workforce and their families,” Thurman wrote in the letter. “Should sequestration occur and continue for a substantial period, DoD will be forced to implement civilian workforce administrative furloughs.”
The furloughs would not apply to the 28,500 American troops based in the nation that serve as a deterrent against North Korea.
There would be some exceptions for civilians, including for “those deployed in combat zones, those who protect the safety of life or property to the extent needed, non-appropriated fund employees, foreign nationals and certain positions or functional areas approved by the office of the Secretary of Defense.”
Under the exceptional clause, about 10,000 Korean workers who support American servicemen on the base are not subject to the leave.
Affected employees would be notified of the terms of their leave at least 30 days before their furloughs begin, Thurman said.
That means personnel may be put on unpaid leaves as early as next month.
“USFK will work to ensure our workforce is kept informed and if the furloughs are executed, they are done in a consistent and appropriate manner,” the letter said.
While some expressed concern that a host of other measures may include cuts in training, military officials said annual joint drills by South Korean and U.S. troops will proceed as planned to test their combat readiness against North Korea.
A field training exercise, called the Foal Eagle, kicked off on March 1, involving tens of thousands of troops from their ground, naval and air forces along with American troops dispatched overseas. It will last until April 30.
Separately, the joint forces will carry out a computer-simulated drill named Key Resolve from March 10-21. (Yonhap News)