Park service says police furloughs no longer needed

WASHINGTON — — The National Park Service has announced that it no longer needs to furlough U.S. Park Police.

The announcement came after Park Police officers — who patrol the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and several sites in Maryland — had served three of 14 planned furlough days.


The National Park Service said savings from those three unpaid days off, combined with other cost-cutting measures and a thorough review of the budget, have "significantly improved" the agency's financial situation and made it possible to end the furloughs for the rest of the fiscal year.

"As a result of cost-cutting measures implemented earlier this year, and now armed with seven months of actual costs — versus projections — we are able to reduce the furlough to the three days already taken," said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. "This is good news for our employees, good news for our visitors ... and good news for the security of our nation's icons."


But if the across-the-board spending cuts called the sequester continue past Sept. 30, Jarvis said, "we will have to continue to make tough decisions with our limited resources," including re-evaluating further cuts and furloughs.

Park Police officers have jurisdiction on all National Park Service land, and officers patrol Route 295, the Suitland Parkway in Prince George's County and several sites in the Washington area.

Maryland is home to 17 national parks and many more park service sites, including Fort McHenry in Baltimore, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal in Western Maryland and Assateague National Seashore on the Eastern Shore.

Ian Glick, chairman of the Park Police unit of the Fraternal Order of Police, called the announcement "encouraging news" for the force, but said, "It is important to point out that the agency is still understaffed, poorly funded and lacks financial control of its own operations.

"We look forward to continuing to bring public and congressional attention to the needs of our membership in protecting the public, as well as our historical and natural resources," Glick said.

While Park Police officers were furloughed, other National Park Service employees were not. The park service has reduced hours at campgrounds, visitor centers and whole sites, cut back on maintenance and limited seasonal hiring.

Among the Park Police cost-cutting measures were limits on overtime and travel, the cancellation of this year's class of recruits and the restriction of agency helicopters to emergency use only.

While Park Police won a reprieve from continued furloughs, more than 500 civilian employees at Fort Meade are receiving furlough notices. Workers for the garrison and its commissary are to be furloughed one day a week from July 8 through Sept. 30.


Some Fort Meade offices and services might close or have reduced hours, base officials said.

The cuts come as the base prepares to host the court-martial of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, who has acknowledged giving hundreds of thousands of classified documents to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.

After months of preliminary hearings, the court-martial is scheduled to begin Monday in the base courtroom. It is expected to draw demonstrators and press.

Fort Meade, with more than 52,000 workers, is the state's largest employer. The workforce includes 39,654 civilians. The 12,737 uniformed service members are exempt from furlough.

Officials said the base's more than 100 tenant organizations, which include the National Security Agency, the Defense Information Systems Agency, the Defense Media Activity and many others, will issue their own furlough notices as necessary.

Elsewhere in Maryland, the impact of the sequester has been uneven.


The Social Security Administration, headquartered in Woodlawn, and the Food and Drug Administration, based in White Oak, are attempting to meet spending cuts without furloughing employees.

After several days of flight delays at BWI-Thurgood Marshall Airport and other hubs across the country, Congress acted to end furloughs at the Federal Aviation Administration.

But the state's 30 federal public defenders began taking furlough days in April. And while the Department of Veterans Affairs has been exempted from cuts, several programs at other agencies that serve veterans have not.