The Defense Department has delayed the 22-day furloughs it had ordered for its civilian workforce by two weeks following Congress’ passage of the continuing resolution that includes a Pentagon appropriations bill.
Pentagon officials intended to start issuing furlough notices Thursday to the 800,000 civilian employees across the Defense Department. Leaders had made plans to furlough civilian employees for a total of 22-days between April 25 to Sept. 21.
Military leaders chose to delay issuing those notices until April 5 in order to review the implications of the new Pentagon appropriations bill that shifts $10 billion into the Defense Department’s Operations and Maintenance accounts that fund civilian employee pay. Pentagon officials will review whether furloughs are still necessary or if the 22-day period could be reduced, officials said.
"This delay will allow the Department to carefully analyze the impact of pending Continuing Resolution legislation on the Department's resources. We have not made any decisions on whether or not the total number of planned furlough days for Fiscal Year 2013 will change as a result of this delay," said Pentagon chief spokesman George Little in a statement.
"We believe the delay is a responsible step to take in order to assure our civilian employees that we do not take lightly the prospect of furloughs and the resulting decrease in employee pay," Little said.
Frank Kendall, the top military weapons buyer, explained Wednesday that he expected the Pentagon to seriously consider reducing the length of the furlough should Congress pass the $518 billion military appropriations bill, which lawmakers did Thursday.
"I think it may come down some. I'm not sure how much. We don't want to furlough people any more than we have to so we're trying to reduce it if we can," said Kendall, the undersecretary of defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.
The Pentagon appropriations bill passed within the continuing resolution that will fund the federal government through October shifts funding that was tied up in other defense accounts by the old continuing resolution and moves $10 billion into the Operations and Maintenance accounts.
The passage of the continuing resolution did not alleviate the Pentagon of the sequestration cuts, but it gives military leaders more money in their O&M accounts that provide more flexibility to fund civilian pay, training, and flying hours.
Pentagon leadership chose to delay the issuance of the furlough notices to give officials more time to study the new appropriations and figure out if furloughs are still necessary. The delay and review of the furloughs will have ripple effects across the Defense Department.
For example, the Defense Commissary Agency is now reviewing the previously announced closure of commissaries on Wednesdays. The agency had planned to close the commissaries since the brunt of their work force would have had to take one unpaid furlough day per week.
"Our plans are fluid and subject to change – and this is why," said Kevin Robinson, a spokesman for the Defense Commissary Agency.
It also means schools run by the Department of Defense Education Activity will not need to dramatically alter their school schedules. Even if the furloughs become a reality in early May, they will only impact the school administrators and teachers for a few weeks, since many DODEA schools shut for summer break May 30.