The two Connecticut Army National Guard bases in East Lyme—Camp Niantic and Stone Ranch—are bracing for deep impact if the federal government cuts $686 million (9.4%) from the Army National Guard operation and maintenance budget as will happen if the federal sequester takes effect.
And these are cuts that will hit home, because they're coming directly from the paychecks of the mechanics and technicians.
Of the National Guard's 650 technicians, 576 will be furloughed beginning in April, when their work week will be reduced from five days to four. That means they'll miss two days' pay in a two-week pay period, which amounts to a 20 percent pay cut across the board.
For those approaching retirement, that also means a reduction in their pension, because that benefit is based on their final years' salary.
National Guard employees and their families won't be the only ones to feel the pinch, either. The cuts will also affect the National Guard's readiness.
"We have to start taking one day a week out of the work force, that would have an impact further on equipment and equipment maintenance, facilities and facilities maintenance, and training," said Connecticut National Guard spokesman Col. John Whitford, adding that the National Guard is already planning to eliminate the out-of-state trainings it had planned for several units later this year. "The overall impact of that hits readiness."
It's not just combat readiness that he's concerned about. The National Guard serves two masters, the federal government and the state, and Connecticut has increasingly had to call on the Guard for assistance with the megastorms that have whacked the state in the past two years.
The effects of the cuts in terms of maintenance of equipment or buildings wouldn't be felt immediately.
"The furlough would not start until April and the impact on the other things would not happen right away," Whitford said. "Say, for example, a storm hit in March, we would have the personnel and equipment, we would still be able to operate and function. If a storm hits in August, there could be a question."
Unless there is an 11th-hour intervention to prevent the federal sequestration, defense spending cuts could have wide ramifications for military operations, military families, and military defense contractors that are major employers in New London County.
Proposed Defense Spending Cuts
- $3.879 billion (9.4%) in cuts to defense-wide operation and maintenance
- $157 million in drug interdiction cuts (9.7%)
- $3.269 billion (9.4%) in Defense Health Program
- $4.291 billion (9.4%) in Navy operation and maintenance
- $686 million (9.4%) in Army National Guard operation and maintenance
- $705 million (9.4%) in defense-wide procurement
- $369 millon (9.4%) in Navy weapons procurement
- $2.141 billion (9.4%) in Navy ship-building and procurement
- $369 million (9.4%) in Navy weapons procurement
- $1.777 billion (9.4%) in Navy research, development, test and evaluation
- $18 million (9.4%) in Navy/Marines family housing construction
- $35 million (9.4%) in Navy/Marines family housing operation and maintenance