Cox cautioned that the “creative accounting” that reduced the payless days from 22 to 11 to six masks the long-term impact of extreme cuts in the future of military bases.
“Come Oct. 1, the start of the new fiscal year, we’ll have every cut in place plus a whole series of news cuts. We have to end the sequester,” Cox said.
Macomb County has been hit harder by the sequestration process of across-the-board, automatic defense spending cuts implemented by Congress than any other area of Michigan. In addition to the Selfridge workforce, some 7,000 full-time employees at the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive Command in Warren have endured a payless day each of the past five weeks.
Furloughs for most employees will end this coming week, or after 48 hours of unpaid leave are accumulated. For many defense workers who have not received a pay raise in years, the furloughs – equivalent to a 20 percent pay cut on a weekly basis – have created financial hardships.
Cox said the “sequestration monster” has created damaging economic ripple effects in communities that are home to the 680,000 Pentagon workers affected by furloughs. What’s more, the union official said he believes the sequester approach will substantially damage military readiness over time, with the Defense Department mandated to slash a combined $500 billion over a 10-year period.
At Selfridge, Cox said, he got a quick lesson in all the layers of the base’s workforce that play a role in keeping the A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft in the air. Selfridge officials said that flying hours were adjusted due to furloughs so that no A-10s were grounded.
But Cox said the cumulative, “domino effect” of the cuts will take its toll at every military installation.
“It’s like you start with $100 and you cut that to $80. Then you cut that to $60, and so on,” explained Cox, who spoke to more than 150 Selfridge employees at a Wednesday lunch-time event.
Local AFGE union officials complain that the furloughs hurt military training, ongoing projects and research.
The union leader blames the “do-nothing Congress,” especially the Republican-led House that has dragged its feet on producing a budget as the new fiscal year approaches. But he also targets President Obama, welcoming his remarks earlier this week about the hardships suffered by military families due to furloughs, but criticizing the president for allowing the sequester cuts to take effect starting in March.
On Capitol Hill, House Republicans seem determined to maintain most of the sequestration process. If budget bills go to a House-Senate conference committee to hammer out a compromise, the sequester impact might be softened more.
But Congress will have as little as nine working days left when it returns from its 5-week summer vacation before the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.
Everybody’s glad the furloughs are coming to an end,” Cox said, “but on Sept. 30 we all know we will be back on the firing line the next morning.”