Hagel Seeks Furlough 'Consistency and Fairness' Across Defense

Defense Department

Pentagon officials are striving for consistency and fairness as they comply with sequestration budget cuts, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a written response to 126 House lawmakers who last week urged the Pentagon to make ‘merit-based’ furlough decisions instead.

“While I appreciate your request to allow services the maximum flexibility to determine civilian furlough numbers, DoD’s most important responsibility is national security,” Hagel said in his April 26 letter. “In reallocating resources throughout the department to the highest national security priorities, we will strive for consistency and fairness across the department.”

American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. said he was “surprised and disappointed” by Hagel’s response. “Components and agencies should not clearly be forced to take the same number of furlough days,” Cox wrote. “If components or agencies have come up with offsetting sequestration cuts of generate their own revenues, they should not be required to impose furloughs.”

The letter lawmakers sent Hagel last week demanded that Defense implement a “merit-based” approach in regard to furloughs, and said managers should be given additional discretion to implement sequestration related budget cuts. They said that furloughs were punishing agencies that had cut costs in previous years, while granting leeway to those that were still profligate. It followed similar correspondence from Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, who said that Defense’s current approach to furloughs was damaging for readiness and morale.

Some elements within Defense, such as the Navy, have said civilian furloughs would be extremely detrimental for their operations and would likely cost the government more in the long term. However, the Pentagon has been adamant on maintaining equality and fairness because of fears of legal repercussions.

The stop-gap government funding law for the rest of fiscal 2013 allowed Defense to reduce the number of furlough days for civilians from 22 to 14. Defense is currently granting limited furlough exceptions for employees working in intelligence, public safety and health positions. Hagel recently told a congressional panel that the Pentagon would submit a large budget transfer request to help cope with sequestration cuts, and that further action on furloughs would be decided in the coming weeks.

Cox said that other federal agencies -- including the Homeland Security and Justice departments -- had “reconsidered premature decisions to impose furloughs,” and that Hagel should do the same.

“There is no budgetary or statutory reason why you can’t show similar leadership,” Cox wrote.  

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

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

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


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