This week Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s announced he notified Congress that DoD could begin issuing furlough notices to “the vast majority of its civilian employees” if sequestration is triggered on March 1.

This means that most of DoD’s 800,000 civilian employees could be furloughed for one day per week for up to 22 weeks, amounting to a 20 percent pay cut for affected personnel.

At a press conference this week, pentagon spokesperson Bryan Whitman provided an overview on the timeline for furlough notification and implementation.  He said the clock started ticking on February 21 when Secretary Panetta sent notice to Congress 45 days before DoD begins to furlough employees.

Whitman said DoD will ask components to identify specific exemptions, which will be reviewed by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD).  DoD components will also begin to engage with local unions and the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness) will notify unions that have bargaining rights.

Employees who might be furloughed must receive a 30-day notice.  Whitman said these notifications could be sent out in mid-March, which will start the 30-day waiting period. 

Sometime in April, according to Whitman a decision will be sent to each employee.  Employees will have a one-week period to appeal that decision to the Merit Systems Protection Board.  Under this timeline, furloughs would not start until late April.

Late last year, the Office of Personnel Management issued guidance on administrative furloughs that could be implemented if sequestration goes into effect.  The guidance contains government-wide guidance on furloughs as well as specific information in a FAQ format.  DoD has provided additional information relating specifically to DoD employees.  Here is some basic information on how furloughs will be handled in DoD

Coverage:  All non critical-mission DoD civilian employees are subject to furlough.  Military personnel have been declared by presidential order exempt from furlough.  No civilian working in a war zone will be furloughed.  Some emergency workers or first responders may be exempted.

Scheduling:  Furloughs will be scheduled to have minimum impact on operations.

Pay and leave:  Employees will not be paid for days on furlough and the lost pay will not be recouped.  DFAS will continue to process pay.  Leave will not be accrued for days on furlough.    Furlough is not considered a break in service and should not affect within-grade or step increases.

Health care coverage:  Health care coverage will not be lost on furlough days.

Telework:  Employees on furlough are forbidden to work and therefore cannot telework on furlough days.

For answers to specific questions on furlough policy and implementation, contact your human resources office or the Office of Personnel Management.