July 25, 2013
Sydney Glass
[email protected]

AFGE President Congratulates Lawmakers on Passage of Lamborn-Orourke and Cole-Kilmer Amendments

WASHINGTON AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. issued the following statement passage of the and Lamborn-ORourke-Barrow-Jenkins and Cole-Kilmer-McCarthy-Bishop amendments to the FY14 Defense Appropriations Bill:

The Lamborn-O'Rourke-Barrow-Jenkins amendment would eliminate the Department of Defenses (DoD) discretion to impose furloughs on all civilian employees. Speaking in support of the amendment were the four sponsors--Reps. Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Beto O'Rourke (D-TX), John Barrow (D-TX), and Lynn Jenkins (R-KS)--as well as Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX).

Furloughs have too often been used by Pentagon officials to send certain political messages about sequestration to Congress rather than to generate the savings required by sequestration. Pentagon officials hastily imposed the maximum number of furlough days on the maximum number of civilian employees. It seem clear that that initial declaration was really intended to inspire Congressional opposition to sequestration by making the process as disruptive as possible.

Of course, Pentagon officials have been as indiscriminate and arbitrary with respect to which civilian employees are furloughed as they have been on the number of days they are furloughed. It is well-known that the Navy did not need to use furloughs. In fact, Navy officials insisted that furloughs would actually cost money in the long run. Many believe the same is true of the Air Force. In particular, WCF civilian employees are paid through revolving funds, rather than through appropriations, and need not be furloughed.

The rationale Pentagon officials advance for these needless, across-the-board furloughs is workforce morale: were all in this together. This is laughable. Could there be anything more damaging to morale than using furloughs to diminish productivity, increase costs, and force hundreds of thousands of working- and middle-class Americans, many of whom live paycheck-to-paycheck, to forfeit a fifth of their income at the end of the fiscal yearin order to gin up Congressional opposition to sequestration?

Indiscriminate reliance on furloughs in FY13 has reduced the incentive for senior officials to look closely at the Departments infrastructure for real savings from permanent cuts. Instead of identifying functions that are no longer necessary or that can be scaled back, Pentagon officials cut staffing for every function by the same amount, whether the function was critical, already short-staffed, redundant, or currently costs too much. Ultimately, the Departments infrastructure can only be reduced by making tough choices about which functions we no longer need or can no longer afford. Targeting the civilian workforce for across-the-board furloughs postpones that critical analysis, while imposing severe pay cuts on Americans working in support of our warfighters, the vast majority of whom are modestly paid. Worse, across-the-board furloughs ultimately cost more than they save because of lost productivity, workplace disruption, and broken morale.

Sequestration is difficult, but the Department must be forced to use furloughs more judiciously. Up until now, weve seen little evidence that Pentagon officials intend to use furloughs differently in FY14. Will they be used in indiscriminate, across-the-board fashion, to send political messages, to avoid identifying the work that should no longer be performed? Will the Navy and Air Force be forced to take furloughs next year simply because it is believed the Army needs to? Will WCF functions again be furloughed even though the Department saves nothing? Thanks to the Lamborn-ORourke-Barrow-Jenkins Amendment, the House has given the Department a strong vote of no confidence on its use of furloughs in FY13 in order to ensure change.

The Cole-Kilmer-McCarthy-Bishop amendment is a much-needed measure that would prohibit DoD from furloughing civilian employees in working capital funded (WCF) entities. We appreciate the strong support of all its sponsors, especially those who stood to speak in favor of its passage, including: Reps. Tom Cole (R-OK), Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Rob Bishop (R-UT), Dave Loebsack (D-IA), and Austin Scott (R-GA).

Furloughs of WCF employees save no money for the Department for purposes of sequestration, yet they do drive up their organizations costs and undermine their productivity, Cox said. WCF employees are financed through sales revenue rather than direct appropriations and work on the basis of no-year money. These funds are required to break even and the loss in productivity from the furloughs endangers the viability of the funds, and increases the cost to the Department, customers, and the taxpayer by increasing overhead and rates.

While some have argued that exempting WCF employees selects a specific group for special attention, note that exempting these employees from furlough is not precedent-setting. During any other type of administrative furlough other than sequestration, WCF employees are exempt from unpaid furlough and continue to work. For example, during a government-wide shut down due to a lack of an appropriations bill, these employees remain on the job because they are funded through revolving funds that include monies from prior years that are not subject to annual congressional action, Cox continued.

Our work is far from done, said Cox. The battle shifts to the Senate, which has not yet marked up its version of the Senate measure. And the Pentagons leadership will strongly oppose enactment of both amendments.

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