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We’ll start with this fact: Gov. Rick Scott hearts the Florida National Guard. But as Scott lambasts the impact of federal budget cuts on the Guard, is he telling the truth?
"The FL Guard has defended our freedom in Afghanistan, Iraq, and put their lives at risk; now the fed govt is going to cut their pay 20%" Scott said on Twitter July 16.
Those are some fighting words about the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration. Are Florida Guard members who fought overseas now getting their pay slashed by 20 percent?
Scott’s office directed us to the Florida National Guard for answers. We will draw from information from the Guard and U.S. Defense Department, as well as our previous fact-check stemming from a feud between Scott, a Republican, and Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, about the impact of sequestration on the Florida National Guard during a hurricane.
Who exactly is getting furloughed
The pay cut Scott mentioned refers to 11 furlough days for some members of the National Guard between July and September. That translates to a 20 percent cut in take-home pay during that time period -- not the entire year, said Lt. Col. James Evans, a Florida National Guard spokesman.
About 966 employees in Florida face furloughs. (The precise number changes frequently due to new hires and those leaving the workforce.) The vast majority -- more than 900 -- are uniformed military technicians, also known as dual-status military technicians.
The Miami Herald recently reported on their specific duties: "They are Guard members known as technicians, who draw their wages from federal funds in a range of jobs — from mechanics who maintain armored vehicles to public affairs specialists who write articles. While most Guard members are part-timers when not deployed, the nearly 1,000 so-called technicians are full-time federal civil service employees. Most work in northeastern Florida."
Evans described the technicians as "the uniformed day-to-day backbone of our full-time force" and pointed out they are the only "troops in the Department of Defense that are NOT exempt from furlough under Sequestration."
The Florida National Guard has 12,000 members. About 10,000 are those who train one weekend a month plus two weeks a year and hold outside jobs. These Guard members are not federal employees and don’t face furloughs, Evans said.
Of the remaining 2,000 who work for the Guard year round, half are active guard and reserves -- such as those who patrol the airfield at Homestead in South Florida -- and don’t face furloughs. The other half include the military technicians and civilians who are paid from an account subject to furloughs.
So we could say that about 8 percent of the Florida National Guard (966 of 12,000) face furloughs or, like Scott, we could say half of the state’s full-time force face furloughs.
"If their unit goes to war, they go to war with them. They are a military member," Florida Guard legislative director Lt. Col. (Ret.) Glenn Sutphin told PolitiFact Florida.
So how many of the furloughed guard members have fought in Iraq or Afghanistan?
Of the employees taking furloughs, about 40 percent, or 385, have deployed since Sept. 11, Evans said. That includes 57 uniformed military technicians currently deployed around the world.
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, more than 700 uniformed military technicians in Florida have been deployed, he said, many of them multiple times. Of the 18 Florida guard members who have died supporting an overseas federal mission, two were technicians on active duty orders.
Scott said "The FL Guard has defended our freedom in Afghanistan, Iraq, and put their lives at risk; now the fed govt is going to cut their pay 20%."
Scott’s statement isn’t telling the whole story. A reader could falsely assume the entire Florida Guard is furloughed. But the furloughs only affect about 8 percent of the overall Florida National Guard, or about half of the full-time force. Also, the 20 percent pay cut is not annual or permanent; they are losing that amount for one-third of the year.
Additionally, not every furloughed civilian employee has served in Afghanistan or Iraq. Among the 966 guard members being furloughed, about 40 percent have been deployed.
Scott’s claim contains some elements of truth: Many Guard members have risked their lives in overseas deployments and now some face pay cuts for part of the year. But the details that Scott omitted are important for understanding the full effect of the furloughs.
We rate this claim Half True.
Miami Herald, "Florida National Guard marks 100th deployment since 9/11,"July 11, 2013
Miami Herald, "Florida National Guard in transition phase," May 19, 2013
Interview, Lt. Col. (Ret) Glenn Sutphin, legislative director for the department of military affairs at the Florida National Guard, July 17, 2013
Interview, Lt. Col. James Evans, spokesman for the Florida National Guard, July 17, 2013
Interview, Navy Cmdr. Leslie Hull-Ryde, Defense Department spokesperson, July 17, 2013
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