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U.S. Army Europe to cut more than 1,000 civilian jobs

News Courtesy of Stars and Stripes
By Nancy Montgomery - November 8, 2011

HEIDELBERG, Germany — The U.S. Army in Europe will cut more than 1,000 civilian jobs in the next year in what’s expected to be just the first round of reductions amid stark budgetary times and as two wars wind down.

As part of the cuts, three garrison commands will be eliminated and seven garrisons downsized.

Installation Management Command-Europe, which manages garrison operations, will cut 606 civilian positions, primarily by streamlining and inactivating garrison command structures, officials said, and giving higher headquarters garrisons responsibility for providing services. The cuts include 401 positions slated for local nationals. The other 205 were Army civilian jobs, officials said.

USAREUR will cut 432 civilian jobs — 218 for local nationals and 214 for Army civilians — from its own headquarters staff, the 21st Theater Sustainment Command and the Joint Multinational Training Command.

“Managers within the headquarters … were given the flexibility to look at their operations and assess for themselves which positions could be eliminated without threatening the mission,” according to a USAREUR press release.

USAREUR and IMCOM-E officials said they had targeted redundant or unnecessary positions, were “flattening the organizations,” and that the cuts would be largely unnoticeable to most soldiers and their families.

“We’re not cutting programs and services,” said Joe Garvey, a USAREUR spokesman.

About a third of the targeted positions are vacant, officials said. At IMCOM-E, 188 positions are vacant, leaving 418 people whose positions are targeted. At USAREUR, 154 spots are vacant, leaving 278 people whose positions will be cut. In both cases, the majority of “encumbered” positions — with people in them — involve local national positions, officials said.

But employees on Tuesday might not have been told whether their positions were targeted.

“How and when a U.S. employee is notified that their position is affected is at the discretion of the commander/leader for that employee’s organization,” Garvey said in an email.

Some workers may be able to change to untargeted positions. U.S. workers might return to Army jobs in the U.S., or take early retirement buy-outs. The last resort is lay-offs, officials said.

Further, decisions about which workers would be laid off, if necessary, involves issues such as seniority, performance and veterans’ preference, officials said.

“The command will do everything possible to avoid a reduction in force requiring involuntary separations. However, if a RIF should become necessary, it could happen that someone whose position was not targeted would be released involuntarily,” Garvey said. “Any separations would be based on the Reduction in Force rules … and any applicable DOD or Army regulation, NOT because the position was more expendable.”

“Leadership here is very aware of the effect an announcement like this can have. There is a great deal of concern,” Garvey said. “We’re going to do our best to take care of (people).”

The long-anticipated announcement of the cuts represents the Army in Europe’s part of an Army-wide elimination of 8,741 civilian positions ordered in July by Army Secretary John McHugh as part of the Defense Department’s mandated efficiency initiatives.

“It is imperative that these reductions be accomplished as rapidly as possible, but no later than the end of FY 2012,” McHugh wrote in his July memo. The commands are not allowed to replace the positions with contractors.

IMCOM-E expects to save about $60 million a year, officials said. USAREUR expects an annual savings of $42 million a year.

IMCOM-E officials said their cuts were being accomplished primarily by streamlining garrisons and eliminating three garrison commands. USAG Garmisch will be incorporated into USAG Grafenwöhr; USAGs Brussels in Belgium and Schinnen, in the Netherlands, will be incorporated into USAG Benelux. That eliminates battalion-level commanders and their staffs, all replaced by a civilian site manager, and overseen by the brigade headquarters.

At the same time, staff at USAG Benelux and Grafenwöhr, as well as Ansbach, Bamberg, Hohenfels, Schweinfurt and Wiesbaden will “restructure to right-size support,” according to IMCOM-E.

The civilian staffing cuts are likely just the beginning of further reductions.

“We’re not done with these types of announcements,” Garvey said. “We’re confident this is not all we’re going to be asked to do.”

The cuts pre-date the most recent national debt battle and an agreement reached this summer in which the Pentagon would cut $450 billion over the next decade.

The Defense Department’s budget has nearly doubled to $700 billion since 2001, not including the trillion dollars-plus spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Since World War II, the Defense budget has always fallen after major conflicts, USAG Vicenza, Italy, commander Col. David Buckingham pointed out on the garrison Facebook page in a post titled “Straight Talk on the Army Budget, Future Cuts, and How it Affects Our Community.”

Buckingham wrote that the DOD budget would be dramatically reduced, and that cuts had already begun.

“So, in almost every area — especially in garrison operations and services — we are asking ourselves, ‘How did we do this back on 10 Sept. 2001?’ Because that’s about the level of funding we expect to have in the years ahead.

“While we will work hard to maintain all the services we can, I’d be a fool, or a liar, to tell you that we will maintain all the same services at the same level for the same cost.”

More information is available on the U.S. Office of Personnel Management website.

 


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