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Lawmakers question furloughing of depot employees

Jun. 25, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
By SEAN REILLY   |   Comments

Thirty-one House members are challenging the Defense Department’s decision to furlough tens of thousands of civilian workers at military depots and other installations paid through “working capital” funds.

“It appears that there are substantial legal and economic questions surrounding the decision to impose furloughs on these employees,” the bipartisan group said in a Friday letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Besides seeking DoD’s legal rationale, they ask Hagel to explain how furloughing those workers would reduce operating expenses this fiscal year and how much DoD expects to save as result.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Hagel had not replied, according to a spokesman for the letter’s lead signer, Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash.

Working capital agencies rely on revenue from the sale of goods and services to other parts of the government, instead of from direct congressional appropriations, to fund their budgets. As the Pentagon struggles to absorb a $37 billion sequester-related cut, most workers at those agencies are facing the same 11 days of unpaid time off as those elsewhere in DoD. The one-day-a-week furloughs are set to begin the week of July 8 and continue through the end of the fiscal year in September.

“In addition to the loss of pay these civilian employees now face and the subsequent impact this will have on our local communities, moving forward with these furloughs will reduce the ability of our civilian workforce to complete workload which is already funded,” the letter said.

At the Defense Logistics Agency, which sells parts and equipment to the military services, about 24,500 employees out of 26,000 face furloughs, a spokeswoman said last month.

Army and Air Force depots, as well as the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, also rely heavily on working capital; in an April letter to Hagel, members of the Virginia congressional delegation said they understood that DoD has about 180,000 civilians paid through such funds.

A Pentagon spokeswoman could not immediately confirm a figure Tuesday or say how many workers in that category will be furloughed. Overall, the department plans to furlough about 680,000 employees out of its total civilian workforce of almost 800,000.

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