Pentagon Notifies Congress of Potential Civilian Furloughs

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Wednesday formally notified Congress that furloughs of DOD’s civilian personnel could occur under budget sequestration. “Should sequestration occur and continue for a substantial period, DOD will be forced to place the vast majority of its civilian workforce on administrative furlough,” wrote Panetta in a Feb. 20 message to all Pentagon personnel informing them of the notification. Sequestration is set to kick in on March 1 unless Congress takes action to prevent it. Briefing reporters on Feb. 20, Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale said the prospect of the furloughs is “one of the most distasteful tasks” he’s faced in his job, but the furloughs cannot be avoided if the sequester drags on. He said he wasn’t sure how many of the roughly 750,000 eligible DOD civilians worldwide would actually receive a furlough. Hale said DOD would send a notification to each employee who may be furloughed in mid-March, thus starting a 30-day clock before any action is taken. “The bottom line is, furloughs would not actually start for DOD employees until late April,” he said. Jessica Lynn Wright, acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said at the same briefing furloughed civilians would experience “a 20-percent decrease in their pay between late April and September,” but their key benefits, such as life insurance, health care, and retirement, would generally continue. Hale said, depending on their scope, the furloughs could save DOD between $4 billion to $5 billion through the end of Fiscal 2013. Under the sequester, the Pentagon would be forced to do without $46 billion for the rest of the fiscal year that it was counting on. (Hale-Wright transcript)