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Military services to freeze hiring, lay off temps, prep for furloughs

Jan. 16, 2013 - 06:00PM   |  
By SEAN REILLY   |   Comments
The Defense Department is considering measures such as hiring freezes, layoffs and furloughs in the likelihood of severe budget cuts this year.
The Defense Department is considering measures such as hiring freezes, layoffs and furloughs in the likelihood of severe budget cuts this year. (Defense Department)

The Defense Department is freezing civilian hiring, laying off temporary workers, considering furloughs for hundreds of thousands of civilian employees, and cutting back on contracts to prepare for the likelihood of severe budget reductions this year.

“If implemented, civilian furloughs will be centrally managed and will be a government-wide effort with limited exceptions,” Rear Admiral J.P. Mulloy, deputy assistant secretary for budget, told Navy commanders in a Jan. 14 memo. He added that the White House will issue future guidance on furloughs.

If carried out, the furloughs would occur one day per week beginning the week of April 16 and lasting through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, he said.

The Defense Logistics Agency on Wednesday formally notified its union that unpaid furloughs of up to 22 days for virtually all civilian staff may be needed between April and the end of the fiscal year.

Likewise, the Army and Air Force are also planning on the possibility of a large furlough.

The Army “must act now to reduce our expenditure rate and mitigate budget execution in order to avoid even more serious future fiscal shortfalls,” Army Secretary John McHugh and Gen. Ray Odierno, the service’s chief of staff, wrote in a joint memo to Army commanders dated Wednesday. Besides the civilian hiring freeze, commanders should terminate temporary employees “consistent with mission requirements” and review contract and studies for possible cost savings.

Like the other military services, the Army leaders called for deep cuts to training, maintenance, administrative expenses, and unnecessary purchases.

“We must begin to slow spending now and plan for the worst,” the Army leaders said. “The near-term steps listed above will only achieve a small portion of the savings required should sequestration and a yearlong continuing resolution occur.”

At the Air Force, all major commands should defer nonessential maintenance, limit supply purchases and cancel attendance at all conferences and seminars unless those events are deemed “mission-critical,” Gen. Larry Spencer, the Air Force’s vice chief of staff, and Jamie Morin, the service’s acting undersecretary, wrote in a Jan. 14 memo. Where prudent, contract awards will be halted or delayed; and managers should consider scaling back existing contracts for base maintenance and other functions to fiscal 2013 alone, they said. Air shows and other flying not related to readiness should all be curtailed.

At the Navy, any government-sponsored conferences scheduled from this month through March should be postponed at least until April, Mulloy wrote.

The wave of memos comes less than a week after Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told the department leaders Jan. 10 to plan for the possibility of a year-long continuing resolution that would generally leave 2013 spending frozen at last year’s levels, as well as for across-the-board budget cuts set to take effect at the beginning of March assuming that Congress and the Obama administration don’t strike a deal to head them off. The cuts, formally known as sequestration, would take about 9 percent out of most Defense Department accounts by the end of the fiscal year in September, according to an analysis by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a private think tank on defense issues. Military personnel would be exempted.

“If we did not act now, the scale of reductions required should sequestration be triggered on March 1 or the department were left under a year-long continuing resolution would be even more devastating for readiness,” Spencer and Morin said.

Should sequestration occur, however, “immediate actions with serious negative impacts to core readiness programs will be required,” the memo said.

As of September, the Army had about 277,000 civilian employees, the Navy almost 200,000 and the Air Force 171,000 , according to the most recent Office of Personnel Management data.

At DLA, with a civilian workforce of more than 25,000, furloughs “may be necessary” for all employees except those deployed “in support of contingency operations in the [Central Command] area of responsibility,” Brad Bunn, the agency’s human resources director, wrote in a letter Wednesday to the president of the American Federation of Government Employees council that represents many workers there. DLA is also considering other measures “to mitigate harmful effects to current DLA employees” resulting from budget uncertainties, Bunn added without elaborating.

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