Defense Undersecretary for Policy James Miller

Defense Undersecretary for Policy James Miller Hadi Mizban/AP

Pentagon Issues Priority List for Summer Furlough Period

‘Must-dos’ stress crises and natural disasters.

Defense Department policy employees have received an updated list of priorities for the period this summer when most civilians will be furloughed one day a week.

“Furloughs will cause significant challenges for policy's civilian employees, and for the organization as a whole,” Defense Undersecretary for Policy James Miller said in June 4 memo obtained by Government Executive. “Reducing policy civilians' hours by 20 percent for up to 11 weeks will have a major effect--it will not and cannot be business as usual.”

The “must-do” list for Pentagon policy office employees ranks topmost “programs and activities that directly support ongoing operations, including DoD response to crises and natural disasters.”

That is followed by assignments from the president or national security council, from the Defense secretary or his deputy and from deputies’ committee meetings. Then comes support for travel and foreign leader engagements by the president, vice president and departmental leaders; major bilateral and multilateral engagements that “cannot be delayed”; work with allies and partners to “mitigate the effect of sequester-driven” service actions; major preapproved initiatives such as the Quadrennial Defense Review and responses to Congress; and required congressional reports.

“Non-essential work” that should be deferred or eliminated includes such tasks as revising departmental directives and instructions, Miller said. “The Policy-wide requirement for 80 hours of individual development activities per year will be suspended for all personnel during the furlough period.”

Miller reminded staff that they are not authorized to work on furlough days. “This means at your official duty station, at home, or at an alternate site, and includes communicating by BlackBerry,” he said. In addition, managers may not authorize civilian or military staff or contractors to work additional hours to make up for lost furlough time. “Compensatory time may continue at the level prior to furlough; we should not observe a spike from what an employee had been claiming prior to furlough,” Miller said.

The policy office is planning a June 19 town hall to discuss furloughs, which are scheduled to begin on July 8. “We are keenly aware of the effect of furloughs on staff morale,” Miller wrote. “And we know that people may experience financial and personal stress during this period of uncertainty.”