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SHUTDOWN: Workers report today, find out what’s ahead

Thousands of federal workers across the Fredericksburg area will report to work this morning whether or not the government shuts down.

Bob McElroy, spokesman for Fort A.P. Hill in Caroline County, summed up the situation for workers there and generally.

“If there is not appropriation or budget, their supervisors will give them written notification that they will be furloughed without pay until further notice,” he said.

Similar scenarios will play out at military and civil service offices across the Washington and Fredericksburg areas.

Overall, between 700,000 and 800,000 out of some 2.1 million federal workers would get sent home if the government shuts down. Numbers on the size of the federal workforce in the Fredericksburg region were not available.

The first government shutdown in 17 years could take a toll on the Fredericksburg area—a hub for federal government workers and military contractors, and home to three military bases.

National parks and some other government-related sites here would also feel the impact of the first such action since a 21-day shutdown in late 1995 into early 1996.

Area military bases on Monday were busy updating employees about what to expect and what services will have to be curtailed or suspended.

Exempt from furloughs are uniformed military, police and firefighters and some trainers and administrators, who will work, but will be paid retroactively. No paid leave is allowed during furloughs.

About 200 civilians work on the Army’s Fort Hill, which sits on more than 76,000 acres in Caroline and Essex counties.

McElroy said the base ID card office and all recreation programs—hunting, gym, community activity center and outdoor recreation—will close at noon.

The Naval Support Facility Dahlgren will remain open, and police, fire and emergency medical services will be operating.

Activities that can continue during a shutdown must be designated “exempted” activities, said Gary Wagner, spokesman for the Naval Support Activity South Potomac, the host command for the King George County base.

A shutdown affects a wide range of activities. Employees’ training and travel, for instance, has to be linked to an exempt activity.

During a lapse in appropriations, the Department of Defense “cannot pay members of our military and our employees, even if they have been directed to work,” Wagner said. Military service members will work, but will be paid retroactively once the shutdown ends. The same would happen to eligible civilian workers.

Other civilians would be placed on emergency furlough, and won’t receive the customary 30-day advance notice. They’ll be paid retroactively only if Congress provides the funds.

The situation is different for some of Dahlgren’s tenant commands.

The Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, the largest one, still has appropriated funds from previous years for work extending into 2014, according to the division’s comptroller, Everett Trigger.

“An extended shutdown could potentially impact NSWCDD employees,” Trigger wrote in a memorandum, if funds from previous fiscal years are exhausted or if cash reserves in the Navy Working Capital Fund are depleted.

The Dahlgren base employs about 7,600 workers. Of those, 4,729 are civilians working for nearly 20 separate military commands and supporting organizations at the installation along the Potomac River.

Unlike the impact from the sequestration-related cuts earlier this year, base schools—Dahlgren school, for example—won’t be affected.

Quantico spokesman 2nd Lt. Matthew Rojo, said Monday that the base was in the process of determining which employees would be exempt from furlough, and which activities and services would remain open. About 11,200 civilians and 7,500 service members work and live on Quantico.

Meanwhile, government contractors were trying to gauge the impact.

Carl Lawson Jr., chief operating officer of CBAIA, a contracting firm headquartered in Fredericksburg, said the situation is complicated because some customers were preparing not to work, while others were. CBAIA supplies logistics and program management and information technology support to the federal government, Department of Defense and state and local governments.

His assessment: “This won’t affect us unless it becomes more prolonged, and I imagine it is the same for my DOD contracting peers.”

Some other possible impacts:

George Washington Birthplace National Monument in Westmoreland County, and most of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park would close, putting thousands of acres off-limits.

The National Museum of the Marine Corps would shut its doors. Daytime ceremonies at the museum off Interstate 95 in Triangle will have to be held outside, though special evening events will go on as planned.

The National Zoo’s panda cam will go dark, though the zoo says all the animals will be fed and cared for.

Reporter Bill Freehling contributed to this story.

Rusty Dennen: 540/374-5431

rdennen@freelancestar.com

 

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