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Are DOD furloughs really necessary?

Posted: May 16, 2013 at 10:55 am   /   by

Getting Defensive

Yesterday, the Defense Department announced it would have to furlough over 600,000 workers come July, claiming it “has no choice” because of the automatic budget cuts known as the sequester. Yet, other agencies have been able to find ways to make the required spending cuts without furloughing any employees. Did the Pentagon really try “everything they could” to avoid furloughing workers? A recent GAO report showing that millions were wasted on new camouflage patterns indicates that smarter cuts could be made at the Defense Department.



Defense Department to Furlough 680,000 Civilian Workers. “Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told 680,000 civilian workers they’d have to stay home 11 days without pay. About 140,000 workers from other government agencies have already been given furlough notices. The number is expected to grow as more department heads make their own tough decisions on how to swallow their share of $85 billion in across-the-board budget cuts.” (Darren Samuelsohn, “Sequestration Gets Real For Furloughed Workers,” POLITICO, 5/14/13)


Chuck Hagel Says They Have No Choice In Furloughing Workers: 

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel: “We Don’t Have a Choice.” “’We don’t have a choice,’ Hagel said during a town hall meeting with defense employees in Alexandria, Va. ‘We did everything we could not to get to this day, this way. But that’s it. That’s where we are.’” (Darren Samuelsohn, “Sequestration Gets Real For Furloughed Workers,” POLITICO, 5/14/13)

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel: “We Did Everything We Could Not To Get To This Day.” (Steve Vogel, “Hagel Announces Hundreds Of Thousands Of Furloughs At Defense Department,” Washington Post, 5/14/13)



Is The White House Playing Favorites?

White House’s Communications Policy on Sequester Has A “No Surprises” Rule. “While multiple agency officials told POLITICO they’ve had the freedom to make their own decisions on what gets cut, a senior aide in one Cabinet department said there’s still a ‘no surprises rule’ when it comes to the White House’s communications policy on the sequester. ‘They’re not trying to micromanage those plans,” said the Obama Cabinet official. “They just want to know what the impact is going to be so they’re not surprised.’” (Darren Samuelsohn, “Sequestration Gets Real For Furloughed Workers,”POLITICO, 5/14/13)


Other Agencies Found Flexibility:

Sequestration Is Being Handled Differently At Each Agency. “What’s clear so far is that sequestration isn’t being handled the same at each agency, several of which got more money in March, thanks to Congress. The air traffic controllers and meat inspectors also got special deals that allowed them to avoid furloughs.” (Darren Samuelsohn, “Sequestration Gets Real For Furloughed Workers,” POLITICO, 5/14/13)

Joe Biden’s Office Avoids Furloughs, Pay Cuts; Found Other Ways To Make Budget Cuts. “Like most of the federal government, the office of the vice president is subject to across the board spending cuts, but an administration official tells me Biden’s office has been able to do what the FAA – and president’s own staff – have been unable to do: make the required spending cuts without furloughing any employees. The VP’s office, I am told, is not furloughing anybody and not requiring any staff to take pay cuts. They have found other ways to make the required budget cuts. The VP’s office won’t say how they have made the cuts.” (Jonathan Karl, “Sheriff Joe Biden Avoids Furloughs,” ABC News, 4/23/13)

Meat Inspectors Avoided Furloughs In A “Special Step” From Congress. “Congress approved $55 million on Thursday to prevent the furlough of all U.S. meat inspectors this summer, a step that could have driven up meat prices and created spot shortages in grocery stores and restaurants. … In a special step, lawmakers shifted $55 million in Agriculture Department funding so that its food safety agency would have enough money to keep its 8,400 inspectors on the job.” (Charles Abbott, “US meat inspector furloughs avoided as Congress approves funding,” Reuters, 3/21/13)

FAA Head: Agency Has Some Discretion To Prioritize, Move Funds. DOT: We Already Used Flexibility. “Last week at a Senate hearing [FAA head Michael] Huerta acknowledged under questioning that, in fact, his agency does have some discretion to prioritize and move funds to higher priorities from lower ones. But DOT claims it has already used this flexibility and still can’t avoid cuts to air-traffic control.” (Editorial: “Flight Delays as Political Strategy,” Wall Street Journal, 4/22/13)



U.S. Military Camouflage An “Expensive Case Study In Federal Duplication”: “In 2002, the U.S. military had just two kinds of camouflage uniforms. One was green, for the woods. The other was brown, for the desert. Then things got strange.  Today, there is one camouflage pattern just for Marines in the desert. There is another just for Navy personnel in the desert. The Army has its own ‘universal’ camouflage pattern, which is designed to work anywhere. It also has another one just for Afghanistan, where the first one doesn’t work. … In just 11 years, two kinds of camouflage have turned into 10. And a simple aspect of the U.S. government has emerged as a complicated and expensive case study in federal duplication.” (David A. Fahrenthold, “With 10 Patterns, U.S. Military Branches Out On Camouflage Front,” The Washington Post, 5/8/13)

GAO Finds The Pentagon Spent More Than $12 Million On Designing New Camouflage Patterns: “At the Pentagon, a GAO study commissioned by the Senate Armed Services Committee found that the military services have spent more than $12 million on designing new camouflage patterns. The cost of buying, stocking and shipping 10 different types of camouflage uniforms is believed to be millions more. Is anybody trying to fix this?” (David A. Fahrenthold, “With 10 Patterns, U.S. Military Branches Out On Camouflage Front,” The Washington Post, 5/8/13) is an educational project of Public Notice, an independent, nonpartisan, non-profit, 501(c)(4) organization dedicated to providing facts and insight on the effects public policy has on Americans’ financial well-being.