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AP: Sequestration means mass furloughs in April

Jan. 25, 2013 - 03:57PM   |  
By STEPHEN LOSEY   |   Comments
(Defense Department)

The Pentagon is planning to furlough hundreds of thousands of civilian employees beginning in April if a deal is not struck to avert sequestration, according to an Associated Press report.

The AP said that Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter told reporters Friday that if sequestration’s budget cuts go into effect as scheduled on March 1, employees will be furloughed one day per week between April and Sept. 30, the end of fiscal 2013. The AP reported that Carter said the furloughs would likely save $5 billion.

The Army also on Jan. 22 officially froze civilian hiring and ordered managers to lay off temporary employees and let term employees’ appointments lapse once they expire. Thomas Lamont, the Army’s assistant secretary for manpower and reserve affairs, said in a memo that day that the Army may not extend any job offers. Firm job offers extended before Jan. 22 will be honored as long as an entry-on-duty date had been set.

Lamont said the hiring freeze will remain in effect until he revokes it in writing. Some top Army leaders, including the heads of the Army commands, will be able to approve exceptions to the hiring freeze and temporary employment terminations, and to extend the appointments of term employees as long as they support mission-critical needs that, if left unfilled, would cause mission failure or national security breaches. This authority should be used “sparingly,” Lamont said.

The Army also issued guidance Jan. 16 on ways to plan for budgetary uncertainty such as sequestration or a year-long continuing resolution. The document said commands should plan for as many as 22 days of furloughs beginning April 16 at the earliest. If furloughs are necessary, the Army said few exceptions will be granted. But “furlough is a tool of last resort,” the guidance said — sending employees home without pay would require Army Secretary John McHugh’s approval, and the Army would have to negotiate with unions first.

Navy Rear Adm. J.P. Mulloy also issued a memo Jan. 14, which told Navy commanders to plan for one-day-per-week furloughs beginning the week of April 16, and lasting through the end of September. In his memo, Mulloy said furloughs would take place governmentwide and have limited exceptions.

The Defense Logistics Agency is preparing to furlough virtually all of its more than 25,000 employees for up to 22 days between April and the end of the fiscal year.

The Defense Finance and Accounting Service is hoping to avoid furloughs by freezing hiring, halting performance award nominations, and slashing travel, training and overtime. But in a Jan. 17 email, DFAS Director Terri McKay said more stringent actions — such as furloughs — may be necessary if sequestration takes place or the current continuing resolution expires without another agreement in place to further fund the Defense Department.

Sequestration would cut roughly 9 percent from Defense’s budget by the end of fiscal 2013. But even if Congress and President Obama come to a deficit reduction agreement that avoids sequestration, it still will likely contain steep budget cuts.

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