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Pentagon authorizes agencies to plan for furloughs, buyouts

Jan. 10, 2013 - 05:33PM   |  
By SEAN REILLY   |   Comments
Defense Department agencies are authorized to plan for furloughs of permanent employees, lay off temporary workers and freeze most civilian hiring, Deputy Secretary Ashton Carter said in a memo on Thursday.
Defense Department agencies are authorized to plan for furloughs of permanent employees, lay off temporary workers and freeze most civilian hiring, Deputy Secretary Ashton Carter said in a memo on Thursday. (Rob Curtis / Staff)

Defense Department agencies are authorized to plan for furloughs of permanent employees, lay off temporary workers and freeze most civilian hiring, Deputy Secretary Ashton Carter said in a memo Thursday.

Defense officials should also authorize buyouts and early retirement programs “to the extent feasible,” he said.

As the Pentagon battles budget uncertainties, Carter also told agencies to review contracts and studies for possible savings; curtail spending on information technology, travel and training; and reduce base operating funding.

Activities deemed mission-critical are generally exempted, subject to approval by the leaders of individual components. Cost-cutting moves “should be structured to minimize harmful effects on our people and on operations and unit readiness,” Carter wrote.

He attributed the spending clampdown to two developments. Like other government agencies, the Pentagon is operating under a six-month continuing resolution that runs through the end of March and generally keeps funding at last year’s levels. “Funds will run short at current rates of expenditure” if Congress opts to extend the CR through the end of the fiscal 2013 in September, Carter said.

At the same time, DoD is confronting the possibility of across-the-board budget cuts that would begin March 1. The cuts, which will go into effect unless Congress and the Obama administration agree to avert them, would carve about 9 percent out of fiscal 2013 defense spending, excluding military personnel spending, according to estimates released Wednesday by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a private think tank. If the cuts — formally known as sequestration — take place as scheduled, virtually all of of DoD’s almost 800,000-strong civilian workforce would have to be furloughed for a month, according to Todd Harrison, an analyst at the center.

In his memo, however, Carter said only that agencies should “consider the possibility” of furloughs for up to 30 calendar days or 22 “discontinuous” workdays.

All actions must be “reversible” should Congress approve a 2013 budget and avoid sequestration, he said.

Among other steps, agencies are authorized to:• Cancel aviation and ground depot-level maintenance activities from March through the end September.

• Curtail facilities maintenance and modernization.

• Clear all research and development contracts, as well as production contracts, worth more than $500 million with the office of Frank Kendall, the under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, before making the actual award.

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