Defense Secreary Chuck Hagel said last week that DoD officials were “probably a couple of weeks away” from making a final decision on the number of furlough days that will be needed. (Mark Wilson / Getty Images)
The Defense Department should rethink its plans for furloughs and other cutbacks to its civilian workforce, a bipartisan group of 126 House members said in a letter Tuesday to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
“It is increasingly clear that these actions are threatening to undermine mission performance and, as a result, mission readiness,” the lawmakers wrote.
The lawmakers said they are aware that Hagel’s office is reviewing individual installations’ requests for relief, but “to date we have been told only that all civilian furloughs are being applied in the same manner across the department, regardless of whether a service component or defense agency has the resources to buy back the furlough days.”
The letter was released Wednesday by the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents many DoD civilian employees. The union said in a news release that its members were “instrumental” in rounding up signatures of support. While the bulk of the signers are Democrats, they also include Republicans such as Rep. Blake Farenthold of Texas, whose district encompasses Corpus Christi Army Depot.
The department is seeking to close a $41 billion budget gap for fiscal 2013 stemming from sequester-related budget cuts, in part through furloughs for most of its almost 800,000 permanent civilian employees, as well as through hiring freezes and layoffs of temporary workers. After getting more spending flexibility from Congress, the Pentagon late last month reduced the number of expected furlough days from 22 days to 14 days.
A DoD spokeswoman had no immediate comment on the letter. At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last week, Hagel said officials were “probably a couple of weeks away” from making a final decision on the number of furlough days that will be needed.