Defense Department Warns of 800,000 Civilian Furloughs

Top Pentagon officials say the Department of Defense (DoD) has already begun eliminating some 46,000 temporary civilian workers ahead of possible mandatory budget cuts.

A total of nearly 800,000 jobs could be threatened in all.

“We are on the brink of creating a hollow force due to an unprecedented convergence of budget conditions and legislation,” wrote the seven members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in a letter recently sent to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) and other congressional defense and appropriations leaders. “Troops on the front lines will receive the support they need, but the rest of the force will be compromised. We are now planning for the potential to furlough up to nearly 800,000 defense civilians who are essential to critical functions like maintenance, intelligence, logistics, contracting and health care.”

Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter says if Congress does not come up with a way to avoid sequestration by March 1, the 800,000 civilian employees could face furloughs and reduced paychecks by April. The workers would lose one day of work per week for the remainder of the budget year ending in September.

DoD officials say the threat of sequestration has created widespread uncertainty throughout the Pentagon, including service members in combat who are worried about their pay, providing for their families and the ability to complete their mission.

The Pentagon has asked all service branches to submit specific recommendations on what they can cut by February 1.

“Rather than working together to find smart, strategic spending reductions, Congress set these irresponsible cuts in motion,” said NFFE-IAM Federal District 1 President William R. Dougan. “If we let these cuts go into effect March 1st, we are willfully cutting off our nose to spite our face. These employees deserve a steady job to show up to in April. Congress needs to worry more about the livelihoods of these dedicated public servants than their own narrow political interests.”

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