Sequestration affecting St. Augustine-based Florida National Guard

By Madison Ciklin |

The Florida National Guard, headquartered in St. Augustine, will be seeing some changes after sequestration furloughs, but still seeks to improve operations even with the upcoming cuts.

On March 28, the Secretary of Defense announced that the number of sequestration furlough days for civilian workers would be reduced from 22 to 14 days. More than 350 people in St. Johns County will be affected, according to the Florida National Guard Adjutant General’s annual fiscal report.

The furloughs will shorten the amount of training hours, cancel the flyovers during the Jaguars games, cut employee hours and, according to an email by Major Gen. Emmett Titshaw, Jr., will cut pay by 20 percent. There are other cuts being considered, but none are set.

The decision over how extensive the furlough would be was delayed for several weeks in order to give the Department of Defense time to analyze things more carefully.

Ron Tittle, a spokesman for the Florida National Guard, is optimistic that even with the cut funds will not affect National Guard operations.

“We will do it,” Tittle said. “We will meet the missions that we’re given. There’s some hardships on a lot of people, but we will all get through this.”

With fewer funds for training, Tittle said they would have to become more creative in their training methods.

“We’re still looking at how we can do it with the money that we have,” he said. “It’s going to be tough. It takes creative management and yeah, we do need the dollars.”

Debra Cox, the executive director of the Florida National Guard Foundation, would not give her own personal opinion on the matter, but pointed out the furlough’s main problem.

“It’s not just the military that’s going to be affected,” Cox said. “Everyone in this community is going to be affected by the sequestration. I don’t think people realize how much the National Guard brings to this community.”

Cox said that the local “mom and pop” businesses will be affected, too. Especially the restaurants.

“We like to eat,” she said.

The National Guard also has an effect on the tourism industry and the real estate market. In 2012, the Florida National Guard had a $1.17 billion economic impact, according to the 2012 fiscal reports.

The Florida National Guard aides in responding to wildfires, floods, hurricanes, combat missions, counter-drug efforts, overseas international training and much more.

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