Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta notified Congress recently that should sequestration occur, the Department of Defense will initiate furlough for its 800,000-plus civilian employees. Congressional notification is required at least 45 days from a planned furlough, with implementation anticipated for late April, Air Force officials said.
“The potential for sequestration-driven furlough continues to be a sensitive topic of discussion,” said Robert Corsi, Air Force Assistant Deputy Chief Staff for Manpower, Personnel and Services. “It has headlined every news product for months, and Air Force leaders at every level are working to determine how to minimize negative impact on people and the mission.”
In the event of sequestration, furlough will be implemented across the Department of Defense, with all the services working with the Department to execute furloughs similarly, including how and when employees will be notified (subject to applicable laws, regulations and collective bargaining agreements).
“DOD-wide, installation leaders are discussing furlough impact with union representatives to determine the most effective, least disruptive way to implement furlough, should it become necessary,” Corsi said.
If implemented, civilians will be furloughed for no more than 16 hours per pay period. In addition to duty hours and pay impact, furlough will affect employees in other areas, including benefits.
“I encourage all airmen to study the guidance on furlough and ask questions to be sure you understand how you’re affected, or how your employees are affected,” Corsi said. “Civilians – especially those relatively new to service – will turn first to their supervisors for explanations and guidance.”
To learn more go to the myPers site at https://mypers.af.mil and enter “Civilian: Furlough Home Page” in the search window. For other furlough information, visit the Office of Personnel Management site at www.opm.gov.
Civilian airmen must also be aware of the impact on leave accrual, benefits and Thrift Savings Plan contributions, particularly if they are planning vacations or nearing retirement, he said.
According to Office of Personnel Management guidance, the accumulation of non-pay status hours can affect the accrual of annual leave and sick leave. For example, when a full-time employee with an 80-hour biweekly tour of duty accumulates a total of 80 hours of non-pay status from the beginning of the leave year (either in one pay period, or over the course of several pay periods), the employee will not earn annual and sick leave in the pay period in which that 80-hour accumulation is reached. If an employee is furloughed for 176 hours (22 days), he or she will lose two pay periods worth of annual leave and sick leave accrual.
“Employees who have extended leave plans need to understand that they will not accrue those hours while on furlough,” Corsi said.
In addition, where TSP contributions are based on a percent of pay, employees will see a reduction in TSP contributions. Employees in the Federal Employee Retirement System will also see a reduction in agency automatic contributions and may experience a reduction in employer-matching contributions, depending on employee contribution amounts, Corsi explained.
While leaders at every level work to develop alternatives to sequestration, the possibility of a furlough must be taken seriously and airmen must be smart about the impact on their lives, the director said.
“If sequestration and furlough are averted, so much the better. In the meantime, I ask every airmen to actively prepare for the days ahead and review the information already available. I cannot overemphasize the importance of planning for a potential reduction of income,” said Corsi.