Still No Word on Defense Furloughs

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

Update: Defense Secretary Hagel was expected on Tuesday to reduce the number of furloughs for most Defense civilians. See our story here. 

The Defense Department had not announced a final decision on departmentwide furloughs by late afternoon Monday, as the Navy pushed to exempt shipyard workers from any involuntary unpaid leave.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel continued to reevaluate the number of furlough days necessary for the department’s employees, Defense spokeswoman Cmdr. Leslie Hull-Ryde said on Friday in an email to Government Executive. Hagel has reportedly been pushing Defense officials to find ways to reduce or even eiliminate civilian furloughs. 

“At present, all civilian DoD employees, from all services, are subject to being furloughed,” Hull-Ryde said.

Navy officials maintained that the Navy does not need to furlough workers to meet sequestration budget requirements. Service officials previously said that the Navy had the ability to cut its budget by $300 million without furloughing 93 percent of its civilian workforce, which would be required under a uniform Defensewide policy. But the Pentagon prefers a departmentwide approach to furloughs and officials have cautioned that agency-specific policies could have legal repercussions, including appeals and lawsuits.

Assistant Navy Secretary Sean Stackley, told a Senate Armed Services subcommittee last Wednesday that workers at public shipyards may need to be exempted from furloughs because of the dire impact this action would have on readiness and modernization efforts.  

"The math states there is going to be more than a one-for-one impact if you furlough," Stackley said. “Overall the Department of Defense is trying to mitigate any furlough actions.”

He said that the Navy was continuing to evaluate furlough decisions in “real time,” and that this decision was being worked on in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Defense had originally announced 22 days of furloughs for civilian employees, but that number was reduced to 14 after the stopgap fiscal 2013 funding bill transferred $10 billion into the operation and maintenance account. Limited furlough exemptions have been announced for intelligence workers and public health and safety personnel.  The department is planning to soon send Congress a “large” budget reprogram request to help make up shortfalls caused by higher operating tempos and other cuts.

Any final decision on furloughs would have to be made soon. According to a personnel announcement on the website of the Defense Logistics Agency, June 17 would be the first day of civilian furloughs if the Pentagon were to stick with 14 days. This would mean that furlough notification letters would need to be delivered 30 days in advance, or this week.

Hagel was scheduled to hold a town hall meeting in Virginia on Tuesday.

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