Furloughs that began this week for some 1,200 Georgia National Guard technicians as part of automatic federal budget cuts are expected to have a limited impact at the armory in Cumming.
The armory, which is off Pilgrim Mill Road near Ga. 400 at Exit 16, is a regional readiness center and home to the 560thBattlefield Surveillance Brigade.
“Really the impact to the Guard is not going to be felt at Cumming because most of the full-time employees there are [Active Guard Reserve] soldiers with very few federal technicians,” said Lt. Col. Eric Andersen, the brigade’s administrative and executive officer.
“So at the armory, it’s a small handful and it’s one day a week.”
Andersen said most of the affected Guardsmen work at maintenance facilities.
“So it’s a huge impact across the state, but there’s very little impact in Cumming,” he said. “But it’s big to each individual … that’s basically, for the 11 weeks, a 20 percent cut. But on the whole [of the Guard], it’s a small piece.”
According to Mary-Therese Tebbe, the National Guard’s public affairs director, the furloughs began Monday and will run for 11 weeks. The cuts are also not likely to affect the armory in nearby Gainesville, she said.
The furloughs are part of sequestration, which began March 1 with the U.S. government trimming some $85 billion as part of an overall $1.2 trillion, 10-year reduction in federal spending.
About half the total cuts will affect defense and the other half will hit nondefense areas, such as food inspection, education and small business loan guarantees.
The National Guard Association of the United States, based in Washington, D.C., released a statement this week saying that nearly a nearly 50,000-member force “critical to National Guard readiness” was facing furloughs.
“These soldiers and airmen perform day-to-day administrative, logistical and maintenance functions,” said retired Maj. Gen. Gus L. Hargett Jr., the group’s president.
According to Maj. Gen. Jim Butterworth, Georgia’s adjutant general, they are the “backbone of our organization.”
A Habersham County native, Butterworth reports to Gov. Nathan Deal and oversees nearly 14,000 personnel of the Georgia Department of Defense, including the Georgia Army National Guard, the Georgia Air National Guard and Georgia State Defense Force.
Reports suggest federal civilians are taking the brunt of furloughs, as part of overall sequestration, but the National Guard is a different animal, Butterworth said.
“Five days a week, we employ these federal technicians and then on the weekends, they turn into National Guard members,” he said. “They wear a uniform every day of the week of their military rank, so we’re taking a pretty good hit.
“If you take away a large percentage of our work force for one day a week, that seriously impacts our preparedness, the maintenance of our machinery ... and will reduce our flying time,” Butterworth added.
He also expects the furloughs will have an economic impact across the state.
“That’s in the hundreds of millions of dollars,” Butterworth said.
The adjutant general did say “we’re all for being a part of the solution, [but] we’re still hopeful that maybe this 11-week furlough may be reduced.
“The burden of the fiscal solution should not be put on the backs of the families of our National Guard members, those who have served in harm’s way and continue to.”
The Georgia National Guard still has about 1,000 members deployed overseas, Butterworth said.
Jeff Gill of the FCN regional staff contributed to this report.