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Furloughs impact Florida National Guard's storm readiness

4:52 PM, Jun 18, 2013   |    comments
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Hurricane season is here and it looks as though the national sequester budget cuts will hamper the ability of the Florida National Guard to respond to storm damage.

Starting July 8th, the Guard will have to begin furloughs for 1,000 soldiers.

The cuts will force each of them to take off 11 days this year so the Guard figures it will lose 11,000 "man days" of work.

More than 400 soldiers are mechanics desperately needed to repair equipment as it return from missions in the Middle East. The Guard has 6,000 pieces of equipment that need repairs before they can be used in the field.

With less equipment and fewer available soldiers, the Guard's ability to respond to storms is diminished.

But Col. Glenn Sutphin said Florida soldiers will find a way to complete any storm-related missions.

"We're going to be there like we've always done. We're the number one state. We know how to do this. If we have to walk, the general said, we're going to be there on time. Now what he means is we're going to use any means to get us there and we're going to stay until we're done."

Sutphin said all the National Guard units in southeastern states face a similar shortage of manpower and equipment, so it will be tougher to get help from neighboring states.

So the Florida Guard will change its protocols to improve its readiness for an approaching hurricane.

"It normally takes us three days before the cone, the head of the hurricane or the cone shows Florida, we start moving equipment, moving personnel and getting ourselves ready to get into the fight, as we call it. We're going to have to have two more days now. It's going to be innovative and it's going to be challenging but that's what the Florida Guard is up for. We like a good challenge."

Dave Heller

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