There is apparently good news for threatened Savannah River Site employees, as the federal funds to avoid furloughs are one step closer to the finish line.
The fate of the $79 million that the Department of Energy wants switched for immediate use at SRS was approved by the Office of Management and Budget, where the request had sat since March 18.
Now, the only step left to avoid up to 900 SRS employees being furloughed is for two U.S. House committees and two U.S. Senate Committees to give a thumbs-up to the reprogramming.
Sequestration cut $100 million from SRS funding, a move that meant a significant reduction in scope of work and employee hours.
More than 2,500 employees have been subject to reduced working hours; however, if these funds are not OK’d by May 22, up to 900 of those employees will lose all working hours.
The committees that need to sign off on the reprogramming are the House Armed Services Committee, House Committee on Appropriations, the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.
The “announcement that the Savannah River Site’s reprogramming request has been submitted to Congress is proof that concerned citizen’s voices have been heard,” said U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., who urged citizens to call the Office of Management and Budget and ask for them to push through the money.
Friday’s “town hall discussion was attended by hundreds of constituents and has proven to be beneficial. As promised, I will remain committed to fulfilling my obligations and work with House and Senate members to ensure the request is approved expediently,” Wilson said. “SRS must be given the resources needed to complete its vital missions.”
According to his staff, Wilson has made several phone calls to the staff directors of each House committee with jurisdiction over the reprogramming request in hopes that it will be approved expediently. He also plans to speak with Chairman Buck McKeon of the House Armed Services Committee and Chairman Hal Rogers of the House Committee on Appropriations later this evening, according to Caroline Delleney, communication director for Wilson.
In the Senate, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., sits on the Armed Services Committee. U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., pledged his support to expediting the funds getting to SRS.
“SRS is important to our nation and to the world. I have strongly supported giving agencies additional flexibility to adjust to the sequester, and it is good news that the president’s budget office has finally approved a plan to avoid furloughs at the site,” Scott said Monday. “I will continue working with my colleagues to ensure the reprogramming request is approved before the deadline.”
There now remains two weeks for the process to be completed to avoid June 1 furloughs.
• Mike Gellatly covers the Savannah River Site and Courts for the Aiken Standard. The oversized Scot has 13 years of experience in Aiken County, first coming to the United States for a summer job at Camp Gravatt while attending the University of Stirling in his homeland. He now has two (American) children from a marriage that started at that Episcopal church camp.