Fort McCoy Braces for Sequestration - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Fort McCoy Braces for Sequestration

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LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) -- If the sequester kicks in on March 1, the defense department will have to hack roughly $46-billion by the end of the fiscal year in September. 

The sequester calls for $1.2 trillion in spending cuts spaced out over 10 years and split between defense and domestic discretionary spending. 

The Fort McCoy training facility in between Tomah and Sparta is expecting to furlough all or some of its 1,500 civilian workers. 

The base also employs 454 military workers, according to its public affairs department. But the sequester calls for military salaries to be exempted from spending cuts. 

Also working at Fort McCoy are 871 contract employees. 

But public affairs officer Linda Fournier said breaking those contracts can be tough and costly -- an aggravation the government has decided it can't afford. 

"This is out of Fort McCoy's hands," Fournier said. 

But she added the effects of the sequester might not be felt for weeks. 

"Many of these employees are covered by unions so there's statutory requirements on when the unions need to be notified," Fournier said. "Then the unions have to make proposals so there's some negotiating and bargaining that needs to go on, and then the employees need to be given a 30-days notice of a furlough as well." 

"The government employees are not looking at this taking effect until the end of April," Fournier said.  

But she added those civilian workers are the heart and soul of the base -- running military training facilities like the gun ranges.

"It's probably not an option for us to shut the range down for a day," Fournier said. "So do we have less hours? Do we have less people working? That's something we need to consider." 

"For instance, with our police force, they operate Fort McCoy's gates and provide access to the installation," Fournier added. "Right now there are two lanes of traffic coming into the main gate. After the sequestration, maybe now there would only be one lane operational." 

Fournier added the potential budget cuts could also take a toll on the Monroe County economy. 

Government employees would be furloughed one day for 22 weeks in a row. 

Fournier said that translates to a roughly 20% pay cut per employee this year. 

"We have a lot of two-spouse couples that work at Fort McCoy," Fournier said, "where it's both the husband and wife that will have that 20 percent reduction to their salary." 

"So they might decide, 'maybe let's not go out to dinner once a week like we're used to doing,' or 'let's rent a movie' when they're used to going out to a movie," she said. 

"I think locally, the communities might be starting to feel it or will start to feel it," Fournier said. 

 

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