Defense Department workers could face job losses in fiscal 2014 if across-the-board cuts from sequestration continue on pace, Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale warns.
Defense’s fiscal 2014 budget proposal will include cuts, but it also would retain a level of spending that the Pentagon considers necessary to fulfill its mission, Hale said Thursday during a webinar hosted by the Association of Government Accountants and the American Society of Military Comptrollers. But if Congress rejects the budget plan, the department will be forced to “look at other longer-term choices besides furloughs,” including “involuntary separations,” he added.
“We’ll have to get smaller and we’ll have to look at some areas where we can take some more risk, get rid of more overhead and make a lot of other tough decisions,” he said.
Last week, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced a reduction in furlough days planned for civilian employees from 22 to 14. Hagel said the continuing resolution passed by Congress allowed some transfer authority, shifting $10 billion into the military’s operation and maintenance accounts, but not enough to avert the worst consequences of sequestration. Civilian furloughs are now expected to begin mid-June, with some exceptions for positions in the intelligence, public safety and health fields.
Hale said the budget cuts would be extremely detrimental for certain missions and for long-term readiness. He cited the example of Air Force cuts in pilot training, which he said would force the Pentagon to spend more money later retraining pilots who lose their certifications.
“We are in triage mode in terms of getting through this year,” Hale said of the budget process. “But these near-term actions won’t solve the problems of sequestration.”
He also said civilian hiring freezes and other cuts were eliminating job opportunities for returning veterans. Hale noted 40 percent of Defense’s workforce is composed of veterans, who would bear the brunt of budget cuts.
“At the very time we are trying to increase job opportunities for veterans, we are severely cutting back on one of the main places they can be hired,” he said.