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Shutdown, furloughs hit NM National Guard employees

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While active-duty New Mexico National Guard members are receiving their full military pay, about 500 of the Guard’s nearly 4,000 soldiers have been furloughed and weekend drills have been canceled, according to Guard officials.

The furloughed workers are “federal technicians” who perform important jobs for the Guard, said Capt. Brian Raphael, chief of public affairs for the state Guard.

The technicians are “dual-status” personnel, meaning they are military technicians on weekends and civilian National Guard employees during the week.

As such, they were not included in the federal Pay Our Military Act, a stop-gap measure passed by Congress that pays active-duty military personnel during the partial government shutdown. President Barack Obama signed the legislation on Sept. 30, the day before the furloughs began.

Although full-time Guard and Reserve troops will continue to work and achieve their units’ missions, doing so without the technical expertise of their colleagues is challenging, Raphael said.

Congress’ failure to reach a federal funding agreement also forced the state Guard to cancel training for part-time Guardsmen the past two weekends, Raphael said.

On Monday, Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration stepped in to prevent 55 civilian state workers who work for the National Guard from being furloughed.

Guard officials said the employees are critical to maintaining Guard facilities and projects around the state, including computer security and construction management.

The state will pay about $53,500 to keep the workers on the payroll this week. Without the intervention, the workers – who are normally funded by the federal government – would have been furloughed beginning Monday.

If the government shutdown continues beyond this week, state officials will consider whether to continue funding those jobs, according to the Governor’s Office.

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