Pentagon policy chief: Furloughs are not a sure thing

Defense Department file photo

The Defense Department’s top policy administrator on Thursday assured colleagues in a memo that media reports of coming furloughs in the civilian workforce “included many inaccuracies,” reiterating that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is working closely with the White House and Congress to avoid furloughs.

Kathleen Hicks, principal deputy undersecretary of Defense for policy, said in an email obtained by Government Executive that “no decision has been taken to furlough DoD civilians. There are congressional notification requirements prior to any DoD furloughs, and we may see a decision in the next few weeks to notify Congress that the department may need to furlough in the event of sequestration,” she wrote. Such notification is not equivalent to “actual furlough decisions, which would be made subsequently,” she added.

Hicks acknowledged comments made last weekend in a television interview by Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter saying furloughs are “more likely than unlikely” in the event of sequestration. But “planning does not assume that these unfortunate events will occur, only that we must be ready,” she said.

Pentagon components were directed in a Jan. 10 memo to include in draft plans the possibility of furloughs for up to 30 calendar days, or 22 discontinuous work days. “This would effectively be the equivalent of 2 days per pay period: 22 discontinuous work days, spread across the 11 pay periods that will possibly be left in the fiscal year at the earliest time that furloughs could begin,” Hicks said.

“If furloughs are implemented, there will likely be an effort to enforce a unified approach across DoD's civilian workforce, including the Services, [Office of the Defense Secretary], Joint Staff and defense agencies. Except for extremely limited exemptions, we believe this would mean that DoD civilians across the military departments and OSD components would be furloughed in a similar manner. Again, we do not have specific guidance or final decisions on this.”

The memo says planners are not anticipating the manner in which "mission criticality" of employees will be used as a factor in determining exemptions from furloughs. “As a planning factor, it is best to assume that virtually all employees funded through regular DoD appropriations would be reviewed for inclusion in a furlough should sequestration occur,” Hicks wrote.

Hicks added that she and top leaders are “intensely aware of the extreme financial hardship that a furlough structure as outlined above would have on our employees, their families, and the long-term health and morale of our workforce. Unfortunately, sequestration will essentially force such a structure: even with near universal furloughs, civilian pay accounts would actually absorb only a small portion of the cuts sequestration would force upon the department during a time of war.”

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    View
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    View
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    View
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    View
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    View
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    View
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    View

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.