Defense Department Notifies Congress of Furlough Moves
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 11, 2007 The Defense Department has officially notified Congress that the department will begin the furlough process for civilian employees of the Army, the Marine Corps and the combatant commands.
Congressional leaders have released a letter from Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England dated Dec. 7. In it, England gave legislators the required 45-day notice before beginning furloughs.
The furloughs will become necessary if Congress does not pass a global war on terror spending bill. “Without GWOT funding, only operations and maintenance funds in the base budget are available to cover war-related costs,” England said in the letter. “O&M funds also cover salary costs for a large number of Army and Marine Corps civilian employees.”
England reminded legislators of a letter he sent Nov. 8 to explain what would happen without supplemental war funding. “I emphasized that without this critical funding, the department would have no choice but to deplete key appropriations accounts in order to sustain essential military operations around the world,” he wrote in his Dec. 7 letter.
The House passed a $50 billion bill last month with funds to continue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it included legislation that directs the president to withdraw most combat troops from Iraq by December 2008. The measure failed in the Senate. President Bush has vowed to veto any bill that includes a troop-withdrawal timetable.
England’s letter begins a process that could affect 100,000 civilian employees. “Specific furlough notices will be issued in mid-January,” England said in his letter. “The department will also begin notifying appropriate labor organizations.”
If the legislation does not pass, the Army will be the first service affected, in mid-February, and the Marine Corps about a month later. The services will be forced to divert operations and maintenance funds to continuing combat operations. Civilian employees in the United States and overseas would be affected.
“The furlough will negatively affect our ability to execute base operations and training activities,” England wrote. “More importantly, it will affect the critical support our civilian employees provide to our warfighters -- support which is key to our current operations in both Afghanistan and Iraq.”
Congress has passed a $460 billion Defense Appropriations Act for 2008, but this is not enough to fund ongoing operations.
England told the lawmakers the Defense Department has no choice but to begin the furlough process. “While these actions will be detrimental to the nation, there are no other viable alternatives without additional congressional funding,” he wrote.