Bill Aims to Give Agencies Furlough Flexibility

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Senate legislation introduced Monday would allow federal agencies to decide which employees should stay on the job during sequestration.

The bill would exempt “essential employees” from furlough during sequestration, using the same language to differentiate essential and nonessential employees as during a government shutdown. An essential employee is one who “performs work involving the safety of human life or the protection of property, as determined by the head of the agency,” according to government shutdown guidance from the Office of Personnel Management.

The legislation also would provide agency heads with the authority to shift funds in their budgets to avoid furloughing essential employees during sequestration. Agencies must seek congressional approval for such reprogramming requests.

OPM distinguishes administrative furloughs from shutdown furloughs, the latter resulting from a lapse in congressionally-appropriated funding. Administrative furloughs, which agencies are dealing with now as a result of the sequester, are “a planned event by an agency which is designed to absorb reductions necessitated by downsizing, reduced funding, lack of work, or any other budget situation other than a lapse in appropriations,” stated OPM’s April guidance on administrative furloughs.

Many agencies have said they lack flexibility to determine which employees to furlough. The Agriculture Department, for instance, said it would have to furlough food inspectors because of sequestration. That prompted Sens. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Mark Pryor, D-Ark., to add funds last month to the fiscal 2013 continuing resolution to ensure no meat inspectors would be furloughed. Advocates for other civilian employees, including those in air traffic control, are looking for similar exemptions.

Blunt is sponsoring the bill introduced Monday, dubbed the 2013 Essential Services Act. He unsuccessfully tried to add it as an amendment to the CR, which keeps the government running through Sept. 30. “This bill will help ensure the Obama administration spends taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars in a way that prioritizes our nation’s economy, protects private-sector jobs, and defends our national security,” Blunt said.

But agencies already might have some flexibility when determining administrative furloughs. “Agencies are responsible for identifying the employees affected by administrative furloughs based on budget conditions, funding sources, mission priorities (including the need to perform emergency work involving the safety of human life or protection of property), and other mission-related factors,” OPM’s April guidance stated.

Whether agencies truly are able to tap that flexibility right now is another story.

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:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

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

    Download
  • 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.

    Download
  • 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.

    Download
  • 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.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

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