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Justice warns of 5-week furloughs for 100,000 employees

Mar. 13, 2012 - 06:00AM   |  
By SEAN REILLY   |   Comments
The Justice Department would lose $2.1 billion in fiscal 2013 under sequestration, Attorney General Eric Holder warned last week.
The Justice Department would lose $2.1 billion in fiscal 2013 under sequestration, Attorney General Eric Holder warned last week. (Mark Wilson / Getty Images)

More than 100,000 Justice Department employees about 86 percent of the agency's workforce could be furloughed for five weeks on average if automatic budget cuts take effect in January, a department spokeswoman said Tuesday.

The so-called sequestration budget cuts, required under the debt ceiling legislation approved last August, will kick in if Congress fails to reach a deal on cutting at least $1.2 trillion from future federal deficits through 2021. Many experts now don't expect any serious effort at such a large budget deal until after the November elections.

The sequestration cuts would hit agencies across the board and be split between defense and non-defense programs. They would cost the Justice Department about $2.1 billion next year, http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20120309/AGENCY01/203090304/1001">Attorney General Eric Holder told a Senate appropriations subcommittee last week. That represents an 8 percent cut to the department's budget and would include cuts to state and local law enforcement programs.

"The consequences are not restricted to simply what happens to the Justice Department here in Washington and in our field offices," Holder said.

Holder added that FBI agents and trial attorneys would be among those furloughed.

"It would be something that would just simply be devastating," Holder said.

Spokeswoman Adora Andy said this week, however, that the possible impacts are subject to change and that Justice would have "discretion on implementing the budget reduction," meaning that some positions could be furloughed for more than 25 days and others for fewer than 25 days.

The Justice Department would also leave almost 5,000 positions vacant, Andy said in an email. If sequestration cuts occur, the department will seek to avoid a reduction-in-force, in part because it can be a "cost-prohibitive personnel action," she said.

As of February, Justice had about 116,000 employees, according to the Office of Personnel Management.

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