The federal six-month spending plan passed by the U.S. Senate last week still leaves about 2,000 members of the Pennsylvania National Guard subject to furloughs as a result of the sequestration, according to one local state senator.
Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Lehman Township, expressed her concerns over the fate of military technicians in the National Guard in a series of letters sent this week to U.S. Reps. Lou Barletta, R-Hazleton, and Michael Kelly, R-Butler, and Sens. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, and Pat Toomey, R-Zionsville. Baker and state Sen. Robert Robbins, R-Greenville, ask for the federal lawmakers' support of any congressional amendment to protect those workers.
Of the more than 18,000 members of the Pennsylvania National Guard, nearly 1,800 classified as military technicians are subject to furloughs.
Technicians, who are fully uniformed federal civilian employees but not active-duty members of the military, often hold roles in operations and logistics and conduct repairs on aircraft and ground vehicles for the National Guard, Baker said.
“The work performed by National Guard military technicians is integral to maintaining military readiness of our Guard units,” Joel Mutschler, vice chairman of the Pennsylvania National Guard Associations, wrote in a release on March 21.
The Pentagon has exempted all other uniformed personnel from sequestration in order to limit the impact of ongoing debates in Congress to military readiness, according to the association.
“I believe this goes against that intent,” Baker, the chairwoman of the state Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, said in a phone interview Tuesday.
Without support for additional federal legislation, nearly 53,000 federal employees across the county could be affected.
The region often has called upon the National Guard in times of emergency, said Baker, including during responses to Superstorm Sandy in 2012 and Hurricanes Lee and Irene in 2011 for rescue, reconstruction and other efforts.