Lawmaker, Union Decry 'Dumb Decisions' as Defense Furloughs Kick In

By Eric Katz

July 8, 2013

Union leaders and a lawmaker representing civilian employees at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point told personal stories at a press conference Monday to demonstrate the effects of furloughs at the Defense Department.

“Today marks the day the people of the Hudson Valley pay for the dysfunction of the last Congress,” Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., said on the first day of furloughs for roughly 650,000 Defense civilians.

Maloney -- a freshman Congressman -- said the unpaid leave will have a “big impact” not just on the families of the furloughed workers, but also on the local economies that depend on the employees for business.

People at West Point are “filled with angst and anxiety about how they will deal with this,” said Don Hale, head of the American Federation of Government Employees local that represents civilians there.

Hale said some employees must choose between continuing medical treatment and “putting food on the table for their families.” Other, lower-grade workers may face homelessness as a result of the furloughs, he added.

Both Hale and Maloney called for more responsible cuts to the Defense Department budget.

“We have to reduce the deficit in a meaningful way,” Hale said, “not just on the back of DoD civilians.”

Maloney said congressional leadership should “lock the doors” of the House chamber until a deal to replace sequestration is struck.

“These are dumb decisions that the last Congress made,” he said, “and we can do better.”  

By Eric Katz

July 8, 2013