WASHINGTON – One hundred and twenty six House members from both sides of the aisle have sent a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, urging him to rethink the personnel actions that have been announced in the wake of sequestration.
The letter was authored by Rep. Adam Smith, who is the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, and spearheaded by the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents more than 270,000 DoD civilian employees.
In the letter, dated April 23, lawmakers urge Hagel to review the Pentagon’s plans to furlough nearly every civilian employee for 14 days, systematically fire temporary and term employees, and freeze new employee hiring.
“It is increasingly clear that these actions are threatening to undermine mission performance and, as a result, mission readiness,” the letter states.
AFGE members were instrumental in gathering signatures from representatives in their districts.
“We are heartened that so many lawmakers are going on record with their support for the work that civilian employees do,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said. “Our civilian employees are vital to ensuring the safety and security of the military mission, and the Pentagon needs to stop targeting civilian personnel. Furloughing any employee is bad policy on its face, but requiring blanket furloughs across the department is downright ludicrous.”
Senior Department officials have acknowledged that furloughs will undermine readiness and increase costs to taxpayers.
In the letter, lawmakers highlight the injustice of applying civilian furloughs equally across all of the services and Defense agencies, even though some components are able to absorb the budget cuts required under sequestration without furloughing employees.
The Pentagon’s policy seems to reward services and agencies that did not downsize their civilian staffs in prior years, as directed by the department, while exacting “punishing reductions” on those that did, the lawmakers said.
Rather than applying furloughs and other personnel actions across the board, the Pentagon should give managers the discretion to make offsetting cuts in other areas as they see fit, lawmakers said.
A copy of the letter is available at http://bit.ly/143iNPs.