Chief of federal workers union says Pentagon using sequestration cuts to 'send a political message'



J.DavidCoxSr.,presidentoftheAmericanFederationofGovernmentEmployees,saidtheHouse'sversionofthedefenseappropriationbillanditsinclusionofamendmentsthatwouldbanfurloughsforcivilianPentagonworkersin2014isastepintherightdirection.Currently,DODcivilianworkersareslatedtolose20percentoftheirpayduetoone-day-a-weekfurloughsthatstretchthroughtheendofthefiscalyear.

"FurloughshavetoooftenbeenusedbyPentagonofficialstosendcertainpoliticalmessages...toCongressratherthantogeneratethesavingsrequiredbysequestration.Pentagonofficialshastilyimposedthemaximumnumberoffurloughdaysonthemaximumnumberofcivilianemployees,"Coxsaid."ItseemsclearthatthatinitialdeclarationwasreallyintendedtoinspireCongressionaloppositiontosequestrationbymakingtheprocessasdisruptiveaspossible."

Thefurloughs,Coxsaid,havebeenadministeredindiscriminatelyandarbitrarily.

"Itiswell-knownthattheNavydidnotneedtousefurloughs.Infact,Navyofficialsinsistedthatfurloughswouldactuallycostmoneyinthelongrun.ManybelievethesameistrueoftheAirForce,"hesaid."TherationalePentagonofficialsadvancefortheseneedless,across-the-boardfurloughsisworkforcemorale:wereallinthistogether.Thisislaughable."

TheHouse'smeasurewouldpreventthefurloughofcivilianworkersin2014andrestoresfundingtopre-sequestrationlevelsbutthere'snoindicationtheSenatewillfollowthelowerhouse'sleadinitsowndefensebill.Coxsaidhe'sseenlittleevidencefurloughswillbeuseddifferentlyinthecomingyearifsequestrationisn'trepealed.

"Willtheybeusedinindiscriminate,across-the-boardfashion,tosendpoliticalmessages,toavoididentifyingtheworkthatshouldnolongerbeperformed?WilltheNavyandAirForcebeforcedtotakefurloughsnextyearsimplybecauseitisbelievedtheArmyneedsto?"hesaid.

Cox,whoseunionrepresentsmorethan650,000federalworkersnationwideandoverseas,saidthePentagonreliedonfurloughstohelpsavecostsassociatedwithfurloughsasopposedtomakinginfrastructurechanges.SequestrationiscostingthePentagon$37billionthisfiscalyear;ithopestosave$1.8billionthroughfurloughs.

"Insteadofidentifyingfunctionsthatarenolongernecessaryorthatcanbescaledback,Pentagonofficialscutstaffingforeveryfunctionbythesameamount,whetherthefunctionwascritical,alreadyshort-staffed,redundant,orcurrentlycoststoomuch,"Coxsaid."Targetingthecivilianworkforceforacross-the-boardfurloughspostponesthatcriticalanalysis,whileimposingseverepaycutsonAmericansworkinginsupportofourwarfighters,thevastmajorityofwhomaremodestlypaid.Worse,across-the-boardfurloughsultimatelycostmorethantheysavebecauseoflostproductivity,workplacedisruption,andbrokenmorale."


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