The Pentagon is moving forward with 11-day furloughs for some 800,000 civilian personnel, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told employees in a memo today.
“As you are fully aware, the Department of Defense is facing a historic shortfall in our budget for the current fiscal year. This is the result of current law that went into effect March 1. It imposes deep across-the-board cuts on DoD and other federal agencies. Combined with higher than expected wartime operating costs, we are now short more than $30 billion in our operation and maintenance (O&M) accounts — which are the funds that we use to pay most civilian employees, maintain our military readiness, and respond to global contingencies,” Hagel wrote.
“The department has been doing everything possible to reduce this shortfall while ensuring we can defend the nation, sustain wartime operations, and preserve DoD’s most critical asset — our world-class civilian and military personnel. To that end, we have cut back sharply on facilities maintenance, worked to shift funds from investment to O&M accounts, and reduced many other important but non-essential programs.”
As expected, though, that hasn’t been enough to close the shortfall, he said.
“After required notifications, we will begin the furlough period on July 8 at the rate of one furlough day per week for most personnel. We plan to continue these furloughs through the end of the current fiscal year. If our budgetary situation permits us to end furloughs early, I would strongly prefer to do so. That is a decision I will make later in the year,” Hagel continued.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) warned that “furloughs are just the beginning” in wearing down the Defense Department.
“Sequester’s pain will intensify and strengthen. It will get far worse before it gets better,” he warned.
“In the time since the White House first conceived of sequester, I have urged the president to find a reasonable way to rein in the debt without hurting the economy or compromising our national security. He still has it within his power to fix sequestration, a responsibility no other member of government can claim,” McKeon continued. “House Republicans have advanced multiple balanced solutions that could spare those who support our national security this uncertainty and hardship. Unfortunately, the president has taken no such step.”
“I fear that the President’s inaction has made saving our military from sequester in 2013 a lost cause. My hope is that President Obama reads Congress’ clear intent that sequester be replaced in 2014 as an opportunity to finally show leadership; the signs are not promising.”
The congressman noted that Obama hasn’t even turned in a funding request for troops in Afghanistan.
“I am ready and willing to work with him to prevent the debt crisis from growing into a national security crisis, but his inaction promotes uncertainty and increases risk,” McKeon said.