If sequestration takes effect Jan. 2, personnel actions such as furloughs will not take place immediately, union sources said they were told during a conference call with Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry and Office of Management and Budget Controller Danny Werfel (above). (Military Times)
Federal agencies were to begin telling their employees Thursday how they will be affected by sequestration budget cuts, administration officials told federal unions Wednesday.
If sequestration takes effect Jan. 2, personnel actions such as furloughs will not take place immediately, union sources said they were told during a conference call with Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry and Office of Management and Budget Controller Danny Werfel. Agencies will use January as a transition period to plan for enacting money-saving plans and will look for all possible savings before furloughing employees or taking other personnel actions, such as layoffs, unions were told.
But if sequestration continues for an extended period of time, the government may have to consider furloughs or other actions, according to OMB talking points. OMB pledged to provide the required advance notice before a furlough or layoff, if necessary. And if a deficit reduction deal is reached that averts sequestration and restores funding, any scheduled personnel actions would be immediately canceled, OMB said.
The automatic budget cuts of sequestration are scheduled to go into effect Jan. 2 if Congress and the White House fail to reach an agreement to reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion over the next decade. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and President Obama had been negotiating on a plan to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff. But Boehner’s decision to move ahead Thursday with his own bills, which have virtually no chance of becoming law, suggests the negotiation process has crumbled and increases the chances of the sequestration cuts taking effect.
Agency leaders began passing the word to employees in memos Thursday. Should sequestration occur, “I do not expect our day-to-day operations to change dramatically on or immediately after Jan. 2,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told Defense Department staff.
But if DoD has to operate under reduced funding levels “for an extended period of time, we may have to consider furloughs or other actions in the future,” Panetta added.
At the Social Security Administration, Commissioner Michael Astrue used almost identical language in describing the possible effects. Like Panetta, Astrue assured employees that “we will carefully examine all other options to reduce costs within the agency” before considering furloughs.
Berry and Werfel said that sequestration will affect agencies differently than a shutdown caused by a lack of appropriations. Agencies will still have money to operate through the rest of the fiscal year, but it will be reduced by about $109 billion governmentwide. Defense Department agencies will have their budgets cut by about 9.4 percent, and domestic agencies will see roughly 8.2 percent budget cuts. The White House has previously said military personnel and the entire Veterans Affairs Department would be exempt from the cuts.