Half of DOD Civilians Will be Furloughed if Appropriations Lapse
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 27, 2013 If the U.S. government has to shut down Oct. 1, about half of the Defense Department’s civilian workforce will be furloughed until an appropriations bill or continuing resolution is passed, DOD Comptroller Robert F. Hale said today.
If appropriations lapse the department can, by law, only conduct limited activity specifically authorized by law, Hale said during a Pentagon press conference.
A lapse, he said, will lead to an emergency furlough that could idle 400,000 members of the department’s 800,000-person workforce.
Military personnel will continue to work as normal. Contractor personnel will also continue in their regular jobs. But some civil service employees will be hit with another furlough.
The shutdown furloughs are different than the ones instituted earlier this year, Hale said.
“The sequester furloughs sought to reduce costs, and we had the authority to design them to reduce costs and to reflect policies like minimizing effects on readiness,” he said.
In the situation now facing the government -- that Congress may not pass an additional spending measure-- law governs. “Specifically, the law says that in the event of a lapse of appropriations, DOD can only conduct activities designed to protect safety of life and property and carry out a few other activities,” Hale said.
If appropriations lapse, DOD can support specific military operations like Afghanistan.
“We can also maintain emergency services, police, fire, emergency medical,” Hale said. “We label the activities that can continue as excepted activities.”
Civilian workers who support these excepted activities would be directed to continue to work.
“But all other civilian workers who do not primarily support accepted activities would be placed in a non-duty, non-pay status on an emergency no-notice basis at the time the lapse occurs,” Hale said.
Pay of government employees could also be seriously affected.
“Military and other civilians directed to work would be paid retroactively once the lapse of appropriation ends,” Hale said. “Civilians on emergency furloughs … would be paid retroactively only if a law is enacted providing the authority to pay them.”
Unless connected with excepted activities, training and travel would have to be stopped, he said.
“We would also be required to do some other bad things to our people,” Hale said. “Just some examples, we couldn’t immediately pay death gratuities to those who die on active duty during the lapse, we would have to close stateside commissaries, promotion boards and other similar personnel activities would be disrupted -- probably would have to be stopped -- and a number of other actions.”
Companies doing business with the department would also be affected, especially if the lapse continues for a substantial period of time.
“Vendors working on contracts with funds obligated prior to the lapse … could continue to work,” Hale said. “But during the period of the lapse, we can’t sign new contracts or extend old ones unless they're directly in support of accepted activities.”
Finally, Hale called the possibility of a lapse and civilian furlough “one more blow” to the already low morale of the workforce.
“That adversely affects productivity and costs the taxpayers money,” he said.