WASHINGTON – Thanks to the recent defense appropriation passed by Congress, the Department of the Navy believes it has financial leeway to eliminate furloughs for 201,000 Navy and Marine Corps civilians now in line to lose workdays later this year.
A Navy official speaking the condition of anonymity Thursday said the service hoped to get top leaders in the Office of the Secretary of Defense on board with the plan, but so far there’s no indication the Pentagon is softening on the promised “across-the-board” nature of the furloughs. Army and Air Force officials said they knew of no plans within their own service branches to eliminate or reduce furloughs.
“The current plan is to implement civilian furloughs with rough consistency across the department,” said Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Elizabeth Robbins.
Last month, the Pentagon dropped the number of proposed furlough days for nearly 800,000 civilian defense employees from 22 days to 14 days, with employees losing one workday a week.
But in a briefing to introduce the proposed Navy budget on Wednesday, Rear Adm. Joe Mulloy, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for budget, said that even a temporary loss of 94 percent of its civilian workers eligible to be furloughed would hurt the department.
“Our issue on furlough is to get down to zero or get support and push that way, because we have a dramatic impact on our equipment and our readiness at furlough in the Navy and Marine Corps,” he said.
As first reported in Foreign Policy’s Situation Report newsletter, the furloughs would save the Navy $300 million, but leaders believe the ultimate cost of disrupting operations would negate those savings. DOD-wide, the 14 furlough days are expected to save $2.5 billion.
Robbins said there are other, smaller agencies within DOD that would be able to manage their budgets to avoid furloughs as well, but leaders made the decision to spread the furloughs throughout the department to maximize savings and fairness.
Current plans call for furlough notices to be sent next month, with furloughs beginning in mid-June.