Corps employees may face furloughs

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WALLA WALLA — Employees at the local U.S. Army Corps of Engineers office have received notice they may face furloughs due to impending federal budget cuts.

According to a report Tuesday on CNN Money, workers at the Walla Walla District office and at the U.S. Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground in Gunpowder, Md., were among the first to have been warned they could be required to take time off without pay one day each week from April 22 through Sept. 21.

But Joe Saxon, chief of public affairs for the Walla Walla District Office, said no furlough notices have gone out and whether furloughs will actually occur remains to be seen.

“Applicable unions have been notified in order to fulfill collective bargaining obligations,” he said today. “Employees will be notified appropriately when and if required.”

There are about 260 people in the Walla Walla District headquarters building, Saxon said. He did not specify how many employees among that number might be affected.

The federal cuts will result in about a 5 percent reduction across civil works programs, projects and activities, but that reduction has not yet been applied on a project-specific basis, Saxon said. “That action must await enactment of appropriations that fund the federal government beyond the current continuing resolution that is set to expire March 27.”

President Obama signed an order Friday that set in motion $85 billion in cuts from federal budgets in the final seven months of this fiscal year. About half would come from defense and the rest from discretionary domestic spending.

Along with local Corps employees, the Walla Walla Regional Airport could lose its air-traffic control tower as part of the cuts.

Walla Walla and Pendleton were both on the list of communities where towers would be threatened with closure if the cuts go into effect. The furloughs and facility shutdowns are expected to begin in April.

However, local airport operators said late last month that closure of Walla Walla’s tower would not likely have a direct impact on commercial and other air service at the airport.

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