With the day for sending out furlough notices looming, the Department of Defense (DoD) seems to be considering all its options.
Initially, DoD said DoD civilian employees would have to take 22 furlough days. Then, after Congress passed and the president signed the the FY2013 DoD appropriations bill, DoD reduced the expected furlough days to 14. Now, as the time DoD set to notify employees of furloughs (early May) approaches, it appears DoD officials again may be reviewing the number of days employees will be furloughed.
At a hearing last week before the House Armed Services Committee, Secretary Hagel, when asked about furloughs, said “we have moved from 22 to 14 and maybe we can do better.” At that same hearing, DoD Comptroller Bob Hale told the committee that DoD has notified Congress that furlough notifications will be sent out, but that a final decision has not yet been made. However, Hale and other officials continue to say that whatever furlough decisions are made will be consistent across the department.
The possibility of furloughs is causing more than a little angst in in the Military Departments. Budget briefings by the Military Departments gave indications that they were very concerned about the impact on operations civilian furloughs would cause. It was clear that at least some services were pressing hard for a lower (or even zero) number of furlough days. At the Navy budget briefing, Rear Admiral Joe Mulloy expressed concern over the effect furloughs would have on the Navy’s operational level and its ability to maintain the fleet. “Our issue on furloughs is to get down to zero,” Mulloy said. While the Army briefers did not discuss any efforts to lower furlough days, Major General Karen Dyson, Director for the Army Budget, said that furloughs presented the Army with “a huge challenge.” Dyson said the “every single one of our civilian employees I just critically important to us.” The Army is planning for different levels of furlough implementation and would be able to respond to whatever final decision was made. Major General Edward Bolton, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Budget, underscored the negative effect furloughs would have on their workers and their families.
Meanwhile, government unions are stepping up their campaign to pressure federal agencies to reject furloughs. In a news release, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) called on DoD to cancel planned furloughs, “Many of the services and Defense agencies say they can reduce or eliminate the number of furlough days for their workers, and they should be allowed to exercise this flexibility,” AFGE National President David Cox said.