State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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PA National Guard seeks to dodge most of sequester furloughs

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Feb 25, 2013 10:39 PM

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Photo by Mary Wilson / witf

Automatic federal budget cuts are coming Friday, barring Congressional action. If the sequester is an axe, it might be coming down hardest in Pennsylvania on the head of the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, which oversees the state’s National Guard.

Adjutant General Wesley Craig is trying to get creative in order to avoid sending 1,700 technicians of the Pennsylvania National Guard on a forced, unpaid, once-a-week holiday starting in April.

“Over a period of a month or two, I’d probably start to see an increasing amount of helicopters that would not be ready, and also fixed wing aircraft,” said Craig, when asked to describe the effect of the furloughs on the Guard’s equipment after testifying before the state House Appropriations Committee. “Never done anything like this before so I don’t have any real true data but you can guarantee that it would start to degrade that fleet.”

To avoid such a decrease in “readiness,” as Craig calls it, he said he’s going to instate a hiring freeze. It’s not clear the freeze will work – it’s basically an assertion by Craig he has to power to decide how to deal with layoffs and furloughs, and in this case, he’ll opt out of them by managing federal funding a different way, instead.

“I think I can do it,” said Craig. “My fiscal affairs officer control the federal funds he gives to me thinks I can do it. So does my general counsel. So does the governor. So we think we can do this.”

Even if the solution works, furloughs will still be required at a wing of the Air National Guard based at Harrisburg International Airport in Middletown, Dauphin County.

The White House estimates that elsewhere in Pennsylvania, furloughs are in store for some 26,000 civilian employees of the federal Department of Defense at military depots and the Army War College in Carlisle Cumberland County.

“There are many, many, other Department of Defense civilians who aren’t technicians, who don’t wear a uniform, and they’re the ones at the depots… they’re the ones at the War College – they’ll all be affected,” said Craig.

Craig said the furloughs could start in April and continue through September.


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