Defense Department officials are looking at the recently signed continuing resolution that funds the government for the rest of the fiscal year to discern how the legislation affects personnel and programs, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said March 27.
The legislation may mean fewer furlough days for defense civilian employees.
“The full range of options is on the table,” Little said. “Our current stand is that we are going to have to take a look still at the prospect of furloughs. I’m not prepared to say we are going to zero. I’m not going to say we are going to depart from our current plan, either.”
Before the funding measure, officials had planned for DOD’s civilian employees, with few exceptions, to have 22 unpaid furlough days by the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year.
Since the continuing resolution passed, Pentagon officials have been sorting through furloughs and “a whole range of other matters,” Little said.
“The CR doesn’t solve all of our problems to be sure,” he added, “but furloughs are a consideration.”
The Department is looking at a range of options, Little said. When the funding measure seemed imminent, DOD officials delayed sending notification letters to employees so they could consider the continuing resolution’s implications. This also delayed the point at which the furloughs could begin.
Officials now say those letters will be distributed on or about April 5, with civilian employees poised to lose a day’s pay each week beginning May 5, instead of beginning April 26, as previously planned. This could reduce total furlough days for each employee to 20.
The continuing resolution President Barack Obama signed yesterday may cut the number of furlough days even more, Little said, but it’s too soon to know.
“We’re looking at a number of options inside the additional money we received as a result of the continuing resolution,” he said. “I can’t say at this point that we are going to forego furloughs altogether, and I can’t say at this stage that we’re going to amend our expected policy to furlough civilian employees.”
Pentagon officials have to look at a number of considerations with respect to this money, Little explained, as they must look at competing needs in the defense budget and “balance all those and see what makes sense.”
When sequestration triggered March 1, it mandated across-the-board cuts. The continuing resolution puts $10.4 billion back into the budget, Little said.
“It is conceivable that furloughs could be part of that equation,” he said, as the extra money does give the department some flexibility.
The continuing resolution also reinstates tuition assistance for service members. “We will comply with the recently enacted legislation to provide tuition assistance to all service members across all the services,” Little said.
Service members wishing to join the program may do so, Little said, adding that he expects no cuts in the program this year.
“We intend to resume the program the way it was before suspension,” he said.