Major Gen. Emmett Titshaw: Furloughing the military

Lee Hulteng illustration of a camouflaged soldier.
Lee Hulteng illustration of a camouflaged soldier.

Disasters in our homeland can occur at any time. Should we continue to pretend that they will not occur between July 8 and September 30 while we furlough military personnel that enable the military response force in each of our states?

Under sequestration, and in accordance with the Budget Control Act of 2011, the Department of Defense will furlough around 800,000 federal employees, to include 53,000 National Guard Military Technicians for one day a week from early July through the remainder of the fiscal year.

National Guard and Reserve Military Technicians (Mil Techs) represent the uniformed day-to-day backbone in the states that perform training, maintenance and administrative functions to sustain National Guard readiness for overseas and domestic operations. These personnel are the only military uniformed personnel in the Department of Defense that are not exempt from furlough under sequestration.

As the adjutant general of a state whose citizenry relies heavily upon the capabilities of the National Guard to respond to natural and manmade disasters, I’m concerned about the consequences of sequestration and furlough. In Florida, we will furlough almost 1,000 soldiers and airmen, about half of our full-time force. We estimate almost 6,600 items of equipment will not be refurbished from deployment, and our equipment readiness rates will drop by over 10 percent.

Deferment of maintenance not only effects the readiness of our equipment for emergency response, but also reduces our ability to train our force for this response. The Florida National Guard will respond, as always, to the needs of our state for hurricanes, wildfires, floods and numerous other disasters, but our reaction time to get the right people at the right place and time will be degraded. In any emergency, speed means life.

The negative impact of furloughs extends well beyond our readiness to respond to disaster . . . and cuts deeply into the financial stability of citizen soldiers and airmen and their families who will experience a 20-percent cut in pay beginning in July. Considering the challenges the Department of Defense already faces with resiliency of the fighting force, furlough of this one segment of uniformed service members will only further exacerbate the problem.

The Florida National Guard has deployed over 17,000 men and women since 9/11; some have deployed multiple times. The National Guard is very much part of the military fabric that makes our nation strong — to not recognize them as part of the required and necessary full time military force erodes unity. It is our obligation not to break faith with any of those who serve, and to ensure they choose to remain part of the all-volunteer force — indisputably the best and most-respected in the world.

The tragedy in Oklahoma last month drives home the reality that we must always be prepared, at a moment’s notice, to respond to emergencies in our states. The National Guard is the military force that provides that response, in coordination with local, state and federal agencies. We cannot allow furlough to impede our response to safeguard our citizens. Furloughing the warriors who wear the uniform of our nation and keep us safe is just wrong.

Major Gen. Emmett R. Titshaw, Jr. is the adjutant general of Florida.

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