The Defense Department says it's decided it has the legal authority to bring most of its civilian workforce back from furlough even as a government shutdown persists. But the Pentagon warned that unless the shutdown ends soon, many of those employees will have nothing to do.
Pentagon guidance says military members will report to work as normal under a government shutdown, and most employees working under service contracts would be unaffected as well. But about half the civilian workforce would be told to stay home without pay.
Due to the flood of appeals coming into its offices, the Merit Systems Protection Board has delayed processing and adjudicating furlough appeals from civilian Defense Department employees. The board will continue to process appeals from non-DoD employees.
Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale told In Depth with Francis Rose Friday the Defense Department will not be cutting any more furlough days for Fiscal 2013. Now, DoD is waiting for Congress to finish marking up the president's budget request. If it fails to do that before Oct. 1, Hale said his agency may be forced to trim $52 billion from next year's budget to offset automatic cuts from the Budget Control Act.
DoD officials briefed House Armed Services members about 2013 furloughs and are figuring out whether they can reduce the number of days employees have to take without pay.
Amid nearly unanimous congressional opposition, the Defense Department says it needs to stop operating military facilities it no longer wants or needs.
The Defense Department is examining all of its contracts as part of the reductions necessary under automatic budget cuts. Reductions to contractors, not civilians, will make up "the majority" of the cost savings.
Funding reductions in 2013 appropriations act are sufficient to protect military construction accounts from further sequestration cuts, but funds used for upkeep on existing buildings are severely impacted.
DoD says it's committed to making sure civilians are not furloughed in fiscal 2014, which begins in October. But if sequestration remains in place, the alternative would almost certainly be involuntary reductions in force for both civilian workers and uniformed service members, officials say.
Furlough notices will now be sent to employees in early May. Actual furloughs will begin in mid-to-late June, placing most Defense civilians on unpaid leave roughly one day per week for the final seven pay periods of the fiscal year.
The Pentagon will send furlough notices to civilian employees in the next two weeks. Defense components would not be spared from furloughs, regardless of any other efforts they take to offset sequestration.
The Pentagon says furloughs for nearly all of its 780,000 civilian employees would begin in April if sequestration goes into effect. DoD would grant limited exceptions for civilians in combat zones or those who are critical to preserving life and safety. Political appointees would also be exempt. The Pentagon also released a list of states where furloughs would have the most effect.
The Pentagon's budget chief, Robert Hale, told reporters that the economic impact of sequestration would be felt nationwide. The biggest potential losses, in term of total civilian payroll dollars, would be in Virginia, California, Maryland, Texas and Georgia, he said. Hale said the unpaid leaves for civilian workers would begin in late April and would save $4 billion to $5 billion if extended through the end of the budget year, Sept. 30.
When lawmakers and the White House kicked sequestration two months down the road, they also made changes to how the cuts would be calculated. The Pentagon estimates the impact on the Defense budget would be gentler than before.