The Defense Department will consider layoffs and other long-term downsizing options if Congress doesn't undo plans for sequesters in 2014 and beyond, according to Comptroller Robert Hale. (Defense Department)
The Defense Department will consider layoffs and other long-term downsizing options if Congress doesn’t undo plans for sequesters in 2014 and beyond, according to Comptroller Robert Hale.
“We’ll have to get smaller, and we’ll have to look at some areas where we can take some more risk, get rid of more overhead and make a lot of other tough decisions,” Hale said last week at a webinar organized by the Association of Government Accountants.
“But we’re not going to have a repeat of this mess,” he said, referring to the $41 billion in across-the-board sequester cuts the Pentagon must absorb in fiscal 2013.
However, unless lawmakers and the Obama administration agree on another route, the Pentagon will have to confront similarly steep reductions each year through 2021, although it would have more flexibility to manage than is true this year.
In his 2014 budget request set for release April 10, President Obama assumes that another sequester will be avoided, Hale said. If not, the Pentagon’s substitute spending plan may include “reductions-in-force and involuntary separations” instead of furloughs, Hale said, adding that DoD wants “to start doing this with more of a scalpel and less of a meat ax.”
With a civilian workforce of almost 800,000, DoD is the government’s largest employer. While the final number hasn’t been set, “we expect the vast majority of civilians — at least at this point — to be subject to furlough” for 14 days through the end of September, Pentagon spokesman George Little told reporters Tuesday. Like other presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed officials, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is exempt from furlough, but plans to forfeit a portion of his pay, Little said.
Staff reporter Marcus Weisgerber contributed to this report.