Colorado Guard to furlough 700

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Approximately half of the Colorado National Guard’s total full-time workforce received furlough notices May 30, triggered by ongoing federal budget woes and sequestration.

And that’s a problem, said Maj. Gen. H. Michael Edwards, who commands the 5,400 members of the Colorado Air and Army National Guard.

According to a press statement, more than 700 full-time Guard employees, mostly in Arapahoe County, will have to take off one unpaid day per week for 11 weeks — for a total of 88 hours —during the furlough period, which begins July 9 and ends when the federal fiscal year winds up on Sept 30. That works out to a 20 percent pay cut.

“The Defense Department’s furlough will have an impact on the Colorado National Guard’s long-term readiness,” said Edwards, citing concerns for employee retention and possibly having to shift resources to maintain proper response capabilities.

Some states are looking to Washington in an attempt to prevent furloughs.

In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott blasted President Obama during a June 6 press conference to discuss preparations for Tropical Storm Andrea. Scott said federal furloughs for roughly half of Florida’s full-time Guard employees could compromise the state’s readiness to deal with hurricanes.

“If the furlough indeed happens, but even if it doesn’t, a question of trust has been raised for those who work in government service as to what expectations they have now for employment in service to our nation,” Edwards said while en route to Amman, Jordan. “Morale has already been affected.”

The Colorado National Guard is structured to rely heavily on its 1,438 full-time technicians to ensure the remaining 4,087 part-time soldiers and airmen are trained.

Edwards also noted the Colorado Guard may have to shift some of its resources to hold on to near-term readiness.

That, he said, would most likely come at the cost of long-term readiness.

Essentially, that means expending military training days meant for part-time personnel to offset full-time furlough days in order to sustain current readiness levels.

The Colorado National Guard is the first military responder for domestic emergencies such as the High Park and Waldo Canyon wildfires in 2012.