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DoD warns against using contractors to replace furloughed civilians

Jul. 2, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
By SEAN REILLY   |   Comments
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Defense Department managers may not use contractors or members of the military to handle work that would normally be done by civilian employees who face sequester-related furloughs starting next week, Assistant Defense Secretary Frederick Vollrath said in a recent memo. (Mike Morones / Staff)

Defense Department managers may not use contractors or members of the military to handle work that would normally be done by civilian employees who face sequester-related furloughs starting next week, a top DoD official said in a recent memo.

Under federal law, “contractors are prohibited from being assigned or permitted to perform additional work or duties to compensate for the workload/productivity loss resulting from the civilian furlough,” Assistant Defense Secretary Frederick Vollrath said in the Friday memo. Using borrowed military manpower to compensate for the furloughs would be inconsistent with the department’s commitment “to protect the viability of the all-volunteer force,” he said.

Furloughs are set to begin next week for about 680,000 of almost 800,000 DoD civilian employees. In general, affected workers will take one unpaid day off each week for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. The furloughs, totaling up to 11 days per employee, are expected to save about $1.8 billion of the $37 billion the Pentagon is losing in fiscal 2013 to the sequester.

In a statement, the head of the American Federation of Government Employees credited Vollrath for issuing the guidance, but said that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel should have cut service contract spending instead of furloughing civilian workers. In the statement, AFGE President J. David Cox said he had asked Vollrath to investigate the union’s concerns that core workload at Anniston Army Depot, Ala., “is being illegally privatized.” A depot spokeswoman said Tuesday that she was not familiar with AFGE’s concerns, but would try to get more information from top managers.

A coalition of more than 20 other unions is renewing efforts to persuade Congress to eliminate the 11 furlough days. “These people need to be on the job — not on the couch,” William Dougan, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees and chairman of the Federal Workers Alliance, said in a statement. The alliance will contact lawmakers — through office visits, letters, social media and phone calls, according to the release. DoD had originally expected to impose 22 furlough days, but it cut that number in half, Dougan said, “and, with the right flexibility from Congress, they can do it again.”

Other members of the alliance include the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, the American Federation of Teachers, and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

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