DOD aims to reduce adverse effects of civilian furloughs

| May 24, 2013 | 0 Comments

Productivity and morale impacted, say officials

Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON — Following Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s announcement last week that most Defense Department civilian employees will experience up to 11 furlough days from early July through September, senior defense officials emphasized their goal to reduce adverse effects on the workforce and the mission.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel delivers remarks on the strategic and fiscal challenges facing the Department of Defense in April. (Photo by Glenn Fawcett)

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel delivers remarks on the strategic and fiscal challenges facing the Department of Defense in April. (Photo by Glenn Fawcett)

Speaking to Pentagon reporters on background, two senior defense officials discussed details of the furlough and exemptions and stressed their intent to lessen its effects.

One official said it appears that about 15 percent — 120,000 of the department’s roughly 800,000 civilian employees — will be exempt from the furlough, and that number could rise once issues involving intelligence personnel are resolved.

While the furloughs will save the DOD $1.8 billion, “it’s not something that we wanted to do,” the official said.

Part of the department’s plan to reduce the furlough’s effects is to ask Congress to allow shifting funds from one account to another, the official said.

The services previously had taken steps in an attempt to avoid furlough, the official noted, with the Army canceling most of its combat training rotations.

“These people aren’t doing PowerPoint slides in the Pentagon,” the official said. “They are mostly outside of the Pentagon. They fix our ships, our tanks, our planes … I think we are going to seriously adversely affect the productivity in almost all support areas of the DOD.”

Despite efforts to mitigate the impact of furloughs, the official said, there will still be an unavoidable effect.

“I think that the anticipated impact (will) clearly be the morale of our employees,” the official said. “I can tell you that we value every single civilian that works in the DOD, and 86 percent of them work outside of the national capitol region. They all add value to the mission that we do as a total force, and they’re clearly part of that total force.”

Both senior defense officials emphasized the DOD’s reluctance to implement furloughs, but said the decision ultimately was made after exhausting all other options.

“This is one of the most distasteful tasks I’ve had in more than 30 years of government service,” the first official said. “We depend on these people to do all of the things I mentioned before. I find it very tasteless.”

“It’s a very painful process,” the second official said. “(The decision) wasn’t made lightly. It was made with a lot of pain and anguish.”

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