WASHINGTON – Responding to the Department of Defense’s announcement that it will reduce the number of unpaid furloughs civilian employees will be forced to take, the American Federation of Government Employees today said the Pentagon needs to eliminate furloughs entirely.
“AFGE has already demonstrated to the department that furloughs are absolutely unnecessary. The department’s leaders have always had the flexibility to impose budget cuts from sequestration in any way they chose. Although reducing the number of furlough days from 22 to 14 shows that they’re listening, they still haven’t gotten the whole message,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said.
“They claim that the military mission is their number one priority, yet they continue to undermine that mission by forcing employees who actually support the warfighter to stay off the job for two full weeks. Meanwhile, the department’s vast shadow workforce of service contractors continues to rack up huge profits at the expense of working class civilian employees.”
Under the continuing resolution that President Obama signed into law on Tuesday, Congress shifted more than $10 billion in DoD’s fiscal 2013 appropriation to operations and maintenance accounts. This additional money put an exclamation mark on AFGE’s contention that furloughs are an unnecessary attack on a workforce that has already made an enormous contribution to deficit reduction through three years of frozen pay and higher retirement contributions.
“DoD claimed that furloughing civilian workers for 22 days would save $5 billion. After receiving an additional $10 billion in appropriations, it doesn’t take a math whiz to realize that there is no budgetary rationale for furloughing employees for even a single hour,” Cox said. “Reportedly, some of the services wanted to eliminate the furloughs entirely but the Pentagon ordered that every employee be subjected to the same 14-day furlough, out of some misguided notion of ensuring uniformity across the department. This makes no sense, since there is no uniformity at all across the government in how departments and agencies deal with the sequestration cuts.”
Even though the number of furlough days has been reduced from 22 days to 14, the timeframe in which these unpaid days off will occur has been truncated from six months to four months. This means federal employees subjected to the furlough still will see a 20% pay cut, only now the cut will occur between June and September.
“All they’ve done is kick the can down the road, forcing employees to take the same pay cut in a shorter period of time,” said Don Hale, chairman of AFGE’s Defense Conference (DEFCON), which represents civilian employees throughout the Defense Department.
Instead of forcing these painful pay cuts on hardworking civilian employees, AFGE has called on DoD to review the massive amount of taxpayer dollars it spends on service contracts. Service contractor costs have ballooned from $72 billion to more than $200 billion a year in the past decade, yet there has been little indication that the Pentagon has engaged in any serious review of these contracts to determine where savings can be made.
“I appreciate that the Pentagon has taken at least partial heed to our message that furloughing civilian employees is damaging both to employees and the mission of the department. But they keep missing the rest of the story. The contractor workforce is larger and more costly than DoD’s civilian workforce, yet we’ve seen no evidence that the Pentagon is even considering revising or cutting its contracts to save money,” Cox said. “Revising these costly contracts should be the first place the Pentagon looks for savings, instead of slashing salaries for 700,000 civilian employees whose dedication to the mission of supporting and protecting warfighters and their families is exemplary.”