Lawmakers Fight Defense Furlough Plan

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., urged Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in a floor speech Thursday to reconsider civilian furloughs for Department of Defense Education Activity teachers. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., urged Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in a floor speech Thursday to reconsider civilian furloughs for Department of Defense Education Activity teachers. Cliff Owen/AP

Lawmakers are pushing back against the Defense Department’s plan to furlough civilian employees for 11 days through the rest of the fiscal year.

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., urged Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in a floor speech Thursday to reconsider civilian furloughs for Department of Defense Education Activity teachers. He said children of service members and civilians “too often bear the brunt” of sacrifice, and said that the teachers were a “significant factor” in their educations.

“These families entrust the government with their children’s education, and their children should not be made to suffer because of our inability to get our fiscal act together,” Warner said.

Hagel on Tuesday announced that civilian employees at Defense would face the 11 furlough days beginning on July 8. Limited exceptions are being granted to shipyard workers, personnel funded through the National Intelligence Program, and workers in public health and safety professions. Teachers working in Defense’s schools currently face five furlough days in fiscal 2013. DODEA Director Marilee Fitzgerald told employees in April that the teachers would avoid furloughs through the end of the school year, ensuring that children would receive a fully accredited year.

In the House, more than two-dozen lawmakers signed a letter expressing their concerns over the furloughs facing nearly 700,000 workers. The May 14 letter -- obtained by Government Executive -- asked Hagel to use budget flexibility to “protect [the] civilian workforce.”

“Requiring unnecessary civilian furloughs is bad policy and has the appearance of an attempt to impose pain for political gain,” the lawmakers wrote. “We urge you to allow the departments and agencies under your leadership to avoid civilian furloughs if they are able.”

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