By Nate Smith
---- — CRANE — Workers at Crane received the confirmation they have been waiting for as the Department of Defense announced furlough days will be cut from 11 to six, meaning workers at one of southwestern Indiana's largest employers will only have two more unpaid days to serve.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said in a memo released to the public Tuesday the Pentagon has been working towards reducing the number of days through cost savings.
"The military services have been aggressive in identifying ways to hold down costs, and we have been successful in shifting savings (including furlough savings) to meet our highest priority needs," the memo said.
For workers at Crane, the announcement means Aug. 17 will be the last furlough day for civilians at the base. Originally, workers were to face 11 days that started July 8. Workers have mostly taken every Friday off at all Crane installations when possible.
According to the Associated Press, officials at the Pentagon found the necessary $900 million in savings to cut the furlough days. Last week, reports were if the Pentagon could save $500 million, the days would be cut. The approximately 3,800 workers at Crane are part of the 650,000 across the country affected by sequestration and the furloughs.
Officials at the base received the news early Tuesday afternoon and spread the word through social media.
"We welcome the news from the Secretary of Defense (Tuesday) and we are relieved that our valuable workforce will not have to go through the hardship of the full number of furlough days," Thomas Peske, public affairs officer with Crane Army Ammunition Activity said in a statement.
A public affairs official with NSWC Crane could not comment because official confirmation had not been given. A message was also left with the local president of the American Federation of Government Employees. The union had protested the furlough days and lobbied Congress on behalf of Crane workers.
The news was also welcomed by local officials as the impact to local economies will be less. During the furlough period, many defense contractors at the WestGate @ Crane Tech Park also took what was known as "Furlough Friday" off.
"It's certainly positive news," Ron Arnold, director of the Daviess County Economic Development Foundation said. "Al-Qaida doesn't take furlough days. We can't afford to stop."
Jeremy Sowders, director of business development with Radius Indiana, said the development is positive not just for Crane, but for the entire region the base supports. Crane is the third-largest employer in southern Indiana and one of the largest naval installations in the world.
"The furlough caused by government sequestration has placed an undue burden on these hard-working men and women," Sowders said. "A reduction in government-mandated furlough days helps lessen this burden."
Eighth District Congressman Larry Bucshon also weighed in on the furlough reduction. He too was glad to see the reduction, "but this temporary relief is too little, too late."
"The President and his allies need to get serious about replacing the across-the-board spending cuts in his sequester with common-sense targeted spending reductions," Bucshon said through a spokesperson. "While I am committed to solving our debt crisis, I also understand that it should not be on the backs of those in uniform."
A spokesperson for Sen. Dan Coats echoed the same sentiments as Buchson.
"(The senator) believes Washington should focus on cutting the hundreds of duplicative and inefficient program within our federal government, rather than choose to furlough hardworking Hoosiers at Crane and the uniformed military technicians of the Indiana National Guard in the first place," Tara DiJulio, spokesperson for the senator said.
While workers at Crane welcomed the news, the future for 2014 remains unclear. The Pentagon is slated for a $52 billion budget cut in 2014, according to earlier reports. It is not yet known how those cuts will be made, even at a Defense Working Capital Fund facility like Crane that relies on sales revenue and not direct appropriations.
"However, even with these improvements, this is a military whose readiness remains seriously degraded as we head toward the budgetary uncertainties of (Fiscal Year) 2014," Hagel said.
Some workers have been let go by NSA Crane recently. Many of the 28 workers worked in police and fire protection, according to AFGE.