Today, the Department of Defense (DoD) will begin implementing civilian furloughs to 650,000 civilian employees at installations across the country. The furloughs amount to a 20 percent cut in pay over the next three months. This means most furloughed employees face one day without pay for each week through the end of September.
Initially, the Pentagon projected that civilian employees would need to take 22 furlough days to meet its sequester targets. However, Secretary of Defense Hagel announced in May that the number would be reduced to 11 days.
Many federal agencies have managed to avoid furloughs and layoffs, but the DoD decided it could not meet the mandated cuts without them. The furloughs are projected to save approximately $1.8 billion
While furloughed, workers are prohibited from performing any work-related assignments while away from their jobs.
The furloughs could bolster the arguments of workers and lawmakers who oppose sequestration, tipping the scales against the automatic cuts. Or they could roll out with a whimper, further solidifying the cuts as a long-term fiscal reality for the Pentagon.
In other defense news, the Senate is beginning to focus on how the department will proceed in the next fiscal year.
The DoD is expected to submit an updated budget to the Senate Armed Services Committee this week. The updated budget is expected to contain an alternative spending plan for the next fiscal year, which takes into account sequestration and its impacts. As with furloughs, defense hawks are counting on the painful trade-offs laid out in the plan to boost the anti-sequester movement and restore the DoD’s funding.
As early as this month, the Senate could take up the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which has a 51-year record of passing Congress. The bill was one of the last items on the Senate’s agenda last year, and the Senate Armed Services Committee do not want the measure left until the end again this year. The House passed its version of the NDAA last month.
The Office of Federal Relations continues to monitor the situation with both the budget, sequester and the resulting impacts.