Sequestration could mean furloughs for many Justice employees

Attorney General Eric Holder says automatic cuts could be devastating. Attorney General Eric Holder says automatic cuts could be devastating. Brian Kersey/AP

Nearly 86 percent of the Justice Department’s workforce will be furloughed for an average of five weeks if automatic spending cuts take effect in January 2013, Federal Times reported Tuesday.

Unless Congress reaches a deal on cutting $1.2 trillion from the federal deficit through 2021, the sequestration process mandated under the debt ceiling measure approved in August 2011 would lead to $2.1 billion in Justice spending reductions next year.

FBI agents and trial attorneys would be among the more than 100,000 Justice employees subject to the furlough. Workers are not paid for the weeks they are furloughed, though Congress can decide to compensate them retroactively.

"The consequences [of the automatic cuts] are not restricted to simply what happens to the Justice Department here in Washington and in our field offices," Attorney General Eric Holder told a Senate appropriations subcommittee last week. “It would be something that would just simply be devastating.”

In addition to the furloughs, Justice would seek to reduce its workforce, leaving almost 5,000 positions vacant. The department, however, would try to avoid resorting to a reduction in force under sequestration, because the RIF process can be cost prohibitive, according to Federal Times.

As of February, Justice employed 116,000 employees.

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