Defense Contractors and Military Personnel Can’t Fill In for Furloughed Civilians

AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. applauded the restrictions on use of contractors. AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. applauded the restrictions on use of contractors. AFGE

During furlough days set to begin July 8, Defense Department managers may not “borrow military manpower” nor step up assignments to contractors to make up for idled civilian employees, a Pentagon official directed on Friday.

Planning around civilian furloughs and “total force management” requires that “component heads, installation commanders and line managers shall take steps to manage workload, but must ensure that borrowed military manpower is not used to compensate for work resulting from a civilian furlough,” F.E. Vollrath, assistant Defense secretary for readiness and force management, wrote in a memo to the joint chiefs, all undersecretaries and major departmental directors.

Borrowing labor “would be inconsistent with the secretary’s intent and the department’s commitment to protect the viability of the All-Volunteer Force,” he continued. “Additionally, in accordance with the department’s statutory requirements, contractors are prohibited from being assigned or permitted to perform additional work or duties to compensate for the workload/productivity loss resulting from the civilian furlough,” Vollrath wrote.

The policy on contractors was welcomed by the American Federation of Government Employees, whose national president J. David Cox Sr. on Monday issued a statement crediting Vollrath’s position, even though “Congress should have repealed sequestration months ago because it was a failed tactic never intended to be enacted, and Secretary [Chuck] Hagel never should have imposed furloughs on the Department of Defense’s reliable and experienced civilian workforce when there is ample room for reductions in service contract spending that is supposed to be temporary in nature.”

Cox recapped a Monday meeting with Vollrath, during which the union “pressed him to ensure that AFGE’s direct conversion concerns -- i.e., when work performed by civilian employees is given to contractors illegally or to military personnel inappropriately -- are resolved expeditiously. I asked him to investigate in particular a direct conversion at Anniston [Ala.] Army Depot where core depot maintenance workload is being illegally privatized,” Cox said.

Last month, the Pentagon comptroller released updated fiscal 2013 budget numbers detailing planned cuts under sequestration, as requested in May by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Ranking Member James Inhofe, R-Okla. The new report lays out line items totaling some $37 billion in reduced spending for fiscal 2013, noting that the cost of preparing the new estimates was $38,000.

Levin was traveling and unavailable for comment.

CorrectionAn earlier version of this story misstated the release date of the Pentagon comptroller's report; it was released on June 13. 

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