2,000 Workers Face Reduced Hours at Savannah River Site, Furloughs Anticipated

Sweeping federal budget cuts that took effect Friday have led the largest contractor at the Savannah River Site to announce cutbacks affecting thousands of employees in the coming weeks.

In a memo to employees obtained by the Augusta Chronicle, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions CEO Dwayne Wilson said 2,000 SRNS employees will see their hours cut to 32 per week starting April 1. An unannounced number of other employees will be furloughed. All affected employees will be notified by the end of next week.

Known as sequestration, the automatic cuts stem from the failure of the bipartisan "Super Committee" to reach a federal budget deal in 2011 following House Republicans' threat to force a default on American debt payments if federal spending was not reduced. The legislation's blunt approach to reducing federal and military spending was meant as an enticement for Democrats and Republicans to reach an alternative deal. Because of the way it was written, federal agencies like the Department of Energy cannot reduce their budgets by prioritizing some projects for cuts over others, but rather must reduce spending on all of them equally.

The duration of SRNS furloughs and hours reductions is uncertain, as SRS and the other DOE sites apply their suddenly smaller budgets to individual programs. Wilson warned that more furloughs may be possible in the future.

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