The decision on how long DoD will furlough civilian employees may be just days away.
Secretary Chuck Hagel is currently reviewing an analysis of the effect the final FY2013 appropriations bill is having on DoD’s budgetary situation and the potential effects of a $37 billion sequestration cut in the next six months. Pentagon spokesperson George Little told reporters on Wednesday that Hagel will make a decision on furloughs “in the near future.”
Originally, DoD announced it would furlough civilian employees for 22 days ,then later reduced that number to 14 days. Hinting that perhaps the number of furlough days might be lowered again, Secretary Hagel told Congress last month “we have moved from 22 to 14 and maybe we can do better.”
As the Secretary and his staff review requests for exemptions, the Military Departments, especially the Navy, are pushing hard to have as few furlough days as possible. At a budget briefing, Rear Admiral Joe Mulloy, Navy’s budget officer, said “our issue on furloughs is to get down to zero.” Army and Air Force leaders have underscored the critical importance of their civilian employees and warned of the negative effect furloughs would have on the employees and their families.
DoD has consistently emphasized that any decision on furloughs would reflect the problems the entire department has with implementing the sequester. So, even though the Military Services and Defense Components might be able to deal with sequester by furloughing fewer or even no employees, Secretary Hagel and his staff have stuck to the “one team, one fight” policy (as Little described it). This means that a final decision on the number of furlough days would be applied consistently across the department.
Last month, 126 members of Congress wrote Hagel pressing him to base furlough decisions on merit and give flexibility to the Military Services. In response, Secretary Hagel reiterated that the final decision on how resources are reallocated because of the sequester would reflect fairness and consistency across DoD.