Pentagon May Cut Furlough Days

The Defense Department may have found the money to furlough its civilian workers fewer than 11 days.

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The Defense Department may have found the money to furlough its civilian workers fewer than 11 days.

AP (“Pentagon Likely To Cut Furlough Days“):

Defense department civilians will likely face up to five fewer unpaid furlough days than originally planned, as Pentagon leaders scrimp to find up to $900 million in savings in the final months of the budget year that ends Sept. 30, officials told The Associated Press.

Officials said no final decisions have been made, but they believe civilian workers will be forced to take six to eight unpaid days off rather than the 11 days that had been scheduled. The move comes as workers begin their fourth week of furloughs — a decision that riled department employees and prompted many to complain directly to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel as he visited military bases earlier this month.

Hagel has been saying that budget crunchers have been doing all they can to find saving to shorten the furlough time. Defense officials said Monday that they do not expect an announcement this week because the numbers have not yet been finalized.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter by name publicly.

They cautioned that the savings are for this year only, and won’t affect likely budget cuts in 2014, if members of Congress don’t act to avoid automatic, across-the-board cuts slated for next year.

About 650,000 department civilians have been taking one furlough day each week since early July. The furloughs were expected to save roughly $2 billion.

According to one defense official, current budget projections suggest that if Pentagon budget chiefs find about $500 million in savings, the number of furlough days will be shaved to eight. If they can find $900 million, the furloughs will be cut to six days.

Officials said the savings are the result of a number of things, including penny-pinching by the military services and Congress’ decision to give the Pentagon more flexibility in moving money around between accounts.

This is obviously great news for those affected. And Hagel deserves credit for fighting to reduce the impact of sequestration on those under his employ. Indeed, he managed to get the projected 22 day furlough down to 11; fewer still would be a bonus.

It’s truly amazing, though, that we’re at the end of July and the Pentagon has this much uncertainty about its spending through September. Two months out, they may be able to save anywhere from half a billion to nearly a billion?

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs, Quick Takes, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. DC Loser says:

    You obviously have not worked DoD programs during Fiscal Year closeout when all the comptroller people work nonstop in July through September to close out their accounts and spend all the money that are below their projected burn rate. I’ve seen money magically appear this time of the FY to fund all kinds of activities, ranging from training, TDYs, entire contracts that had been unfunded up to that point, etc. This is what Christmas looks like in the federal government. So it’s not surprising that they found money that had been unused in other programs to shift to the payroll account.

  2. Scott says:

    @DC Loser: However, wtih the furlough days and without the authority to pay comptime or overtime to the contracting folks, a lot of this money, especially the expiring appropriations, will be left on the table.

  3. James Joyner says:

    @DC Loser: I’ve not been at the budget table on these things, although I’ve felt the downstream effects. It’s just a stunning amount of money we’re talking about here, though.

  4. DC Loser says:

    @Scott,

    It looks like they got enough people to push the money over to the payroll account to cut the furlough days.

  5. Tim Tisdale says:

    I am a GS employee and believe the furlough should stay at the current 11 days if this problem is going to resurface in 2014.

  6. John D'Geek says:

    @DC Loser: @James Joyner: This isn’t EFY syndrome (“End of Fiscal Year”) — they’re actually cutting & further limiting programs. The project I’m working on has been cut to the bone, and is being cut further even now.

    “We know you were expecing to do X, but it’ll have to wait ’till next year. And ‘this’ will have to wait ’till FY15. We need the $Y million for salaries.”

    But with congress the way it is — will “next year” ever come?

  7. James Downey says:

    Perhaps Barry Obama could cut his vacation budget?

  8. anjin-san says:

    @ James Downey

    GW Bush remains the White House vacation days champ. Do you have anything to contribute beyond warmed over Fox talking points?

  9. James Downey says:

    @anjin-san: Yo anjin – you really can’t stand Fox or anything logical.

    Guess you wouldn’t like to count?

    Regardless, my statement is true. GW could not reduce his vacation days now. He has not been in office for five long years of Chicago Mobster Rule.

  10. DC Loser says:

    Where’s Superdestroyer when you want a more intelligent loon?

  11. N7 Taxpayer says:

    @ DC LOSER After 30 long years of executing fiscal year budgets, you are so right, the EOY does get hectic for us Comptroller types because we are required to execute 100% of our plans. Comptrollers are the front-runners to make this BS / nonsense stop. I have easily convinced a-many of Commanding Officers that returning the dollars is the right thing to do. I have successfully returned millions to our major claimants. This year, to date – due to our numerous cost saving initiatives and some cuts that were necessary, we have returned in excess of $6M – damn shame I couldn’t keep <10% of that to pay the civilian salaries in the command. So we busted our hump to save and still saw no relief. Guess we could have ordered all that new furniture and end of year goodies. Silly us.

  12. N7 Taxpayer says:

    and as a side note, we are working a lot less than 80% of the time that we are physically in the office. There are so many conversation among the civilians that consume a lot of time because every one is trying to predict what our future holds, what is going to happen next, what is happening now, simply trying to interpret all of this nonsense.