Sequester preparations await furlough announcement

Employees will have to wait a bit longer to find out the details of their furlough, including the exact number of non-pay status days, as officials attempt to minimize the impact on mission and personnel. 

The extensive planning and deliberations for the release of Notice of Proposed Furlough Letters to Army civilians have been stalled between Congressional action and White House budget proposals. 

The reason for the delay is complex.  On March 21, the Pentagon put off sending out notices to give officials time to review the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2013. 

This continuing resolution put $10 billion back in the budget, restored tuition assistance for military members and gave the services some flexibility in the application of the furloughs.

After a detailed review, the Defense Department revised the number of non-pay status days from 22 to 14 and delayed the start of furloughs until mid- to late June. Around 750,000 civilians had been facing a 20 percent reduction in pay for the remaining weeks of fiscal year 2013. 

Congressional approval of the defense appropriations bill late in March reduced the shortfall in the budget from $46 to $41 billion, taking some of the pressure off sequestration.

Overseas operations, however, are still the highest priority. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel directed Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to conduct an intensive, department-wide review of how to protect the nation with fewer resources.

How budget cuts will affect readiness and the department’s overall mission is of the utmost concern, according to secretary Hagel. “We will have to trade at some level and to some degree our future readiness for current operations,” he said.

On April 2, Hagel announced he will voluntarily commit to a partial forfeiture of his pay during the furlough period, even though he is exempt as a political appointee. This gesture prompted other leaders, including the president of the United States, to make similar gestures of solidarity.

The White House released its 2014 budget proposal, including a $526.6 billion defense base budget request, April 10. This budget adds more variables to the process. Besides repealing the sequestration, President Obama’s proposal addresses taxes and entitlement spending and calls for a new round of base realignment and closure. Meanwhile, officials across the Army await the exact details and wording of the furlough communication. 

The Department of the Army has requested an internal review to gauge the impact of both a seven-day furlough and no furlough; however, there is no decision to reduce the number of days below 14.  

To accomplish a full 14-day non-pay status furlough, employees of the U.S. Army Installation Management Command are expected to receive their notification letters starting on or about May 16.

Approximately 27,000 IMCOM employees will be notified directly by their supervisors under specific guidance from Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs Thomas R. Lamont.

Once employees are notified, they will be required to acknowledge in writing their receipt of notification. Then they will have seven days to exercise their right to reply. Employees may appeal orally, in writing or both to the designated reply official.

Lt. Gen. Mike Ferriter, commander of IMCOM, has announced if furloughs occur, the headquarters will move to a four-day work week. Each garrison commander will make scheduling decisions locally in coordination with the senior commander.  
Employees on garrisons under collective bargaining agreements should consult directly with their union officials for any updates.

Once final furlough decision notices are sent, employees may appeal their agency’s decision to the Merit System Protection Board within 30 days from the effective date of the furlough.