House Votes to Block 2014 DoD Civilian Furloughs

U.S. Capitol
U.S. Capitol

The House voted late Tuesday to bar the Defense Department from issuing another round of furloughs to civilian workers next fiscal year.

Sponsored by Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., the House passed the bipartisan amendment as part of their fiscal 2014 defense spending bill that would restrict the Pentagon from spending any money after Oct. 1 to institute a furlough.

The passage of the amendment comes as about 650,000 Defense Department civilian workers are facing an 11-day furlough until the end of the 2013 fiscal year. The U.S. military has estimated the furlough will save the Defense Department $2 billion at a time when the military saw its budget cut by $37 billion.

Sequestration went into effect March 1 and unless Congress can come to an agreement on spending and deficit reduction the military will see its budget shrink by $500 billion over the next ten years. In 2014, the Defense Department could see an even steeper cut with a $52 billion reduction to its budget.

Service chiefs had warned that cutting $500 billion in defense spending over the next decade will slash training budgets, delay modernization, and severely hamper the U.S. military's ability to project forces around the globe.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert said he's seen how the furlough has hindered critical operations such as ship building efforts and depot maintenance. Other service chiefs claim to have observed the like effects on their own operations.

Lamborn said on the House floor when presenting the amendment that it was unfair to single out civilian workers. He even questioned the economic sense it made to furlough most of the civilian workforce to save less than one-half of 1 percent of the overall defense budget.

"This amendment is a first step toward restoring sanity to the Defense budget and restoring pay to our nation's civilian defense workers," Lamborn said.

If the Defense Department loses the option to furlough civilians, it could mean further layoffs for the civilian force. Defense Secretary Hagel has already said the military will have to take drastic steps in order to account for the sequestration cuts next year.

One of the steps could be layoffs, Hagel said. He also suggested the military may have to freeze promotions and restrict recruiting in order to save money.

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