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Almost Every Agency Cut Or Avoided ‘Furloughs’

From Government Executive Magazine:

Nearly Every Major Agency Has Reduced Furloughs

By Eric Katz | August 13, 2013

When sequestration was about to kick in, the Obama administration began a nearly across-the-board campaign to discuss the devastating impact the automatic cuts would have on agency operations.

Naturally, the ‘Republican’s Sequester Cuts’ were to be the centerpiece of the Democrats midterm campaign. They were supposed to prove that it insane to even try to reduce the increase in government spending by even 2%.

(By the way, ‘Government Executive’ is an trade magazine, owned by National Journal. It’s distributed for free to senior executives in federal, state and local governments. And it is said to be the number one publication read by federal managers.)

At the center of these warnings stood employee furloughs: mandatory unpaid leave to help each department meet the lower budget caps that took effect March 1. Furloughs, combined with hiring freezes, would disrupt the proper functioning of government, agency chiefs said, as fewer employees working fewer hours could not accomplish the same amount as a fully staffed workforce.

Alas, none of which has happened. The federal government is just as inefficient and incompetent as it was before.

While many federal agencies have in fact moved forward with furloughs, and there remain countless examples of sequestration interfering with government operations —

Name one!

[M]ost major departments have reduced furlough days, or eliminated them altogether…

The Agriculture, Transportation and Homeland Security departments all received authority to transfer funds between agency accounts, and were therefore able to cancel planned furloughs. The Commerce Department projected furloughs at its National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, only to cancel them in May

The Pentagon originally planned to furlough all 750,000 of its civilian employees for 22 days. It then used reprogramming to trim that number to 11 days, and more recently — through a series of cost-cutting measures and inter-service transfer of funds — reduced the days of unpaid leave to six

The Treasury Department, for example, originally said it would furlough all 90,000 of its Internal Revenue Service employees five days, but has since cut the number of days to three. The Housing and Urban Development Department also recently canceled two furlough days. In May, the Environmental Protection Agency cut furloughs by three days. The Interior Department warned of 12-14 furlough days for the U.S. Park Police, but ultimately ended the furloughs after employees had taken less than half of the expected total

What a disaster, huh? For the Democrats, we mean.

The American Federation of Government Employees attributes the furlough reductions and cancellations partly to the success of its negotiations.

“We showed the agencies there were numerous alternatives to dealing with sequestration,” said Jacqueline Simon, public policy director at AFGE. “It was across the board and our union responded in every one of these situations.”

Which is to say, the unions stopped this from happening. Just as we predicted they would. After all, they run the bureaucracies. Not Congress or the President.

Simon added the bloated estimates were a “political calculation,” with federal employees dangled as sacrificial lambs to demonstrate to Congress the potential fallout from sequestration. “The administration wrongfully assumed Congress would act,” Simon said. “Congress didn’t act. They didn’t care.” ..

Which should be a lesson for all of us.

This article was posted by Steve Gilbert on Wednesday, August 14th, 2013. Comments are currently closed.

3 Responses to “Almost Every Agency Cut Or Avoided ‘Furloughs’”

  1. Curiosity

    The Air Force Research Laboratory government scientists (and their contractors) have been unable except in unusual circumstances to travel for government business. Short term, it is just a major nuisance, but if it went on long term it would be detrimental for their academic reputation and connections, and it is bad for bringing in quality scientists who don’t want to mess with furloughs, arbitrary travel restrictions, and being monitored at night to see if they so much as check their e-mail under anti-deficiency laws.

    While the scientists I know in one directorate are maybe what I would call “good quality” my current customers in a different directorate are unusually talented and respected in their field, and it would be a waste for them to leave or for them to not be able to attract like-quality scientists.

    The other impact it has in AFRL is that project managers at the upper echelons have no spine – rather than cut say 1 in 10 projects completely, all projects are just cut by 10% or more, which makes them less likely to finish successfully (at least, for the investigators that budgeted responsibly).

    There are many, many parts of government where we as a country would be better off in cutting back – say, TSA, Dept of Education, IRS, and so on. But the military doesn’t typically vote the right way, so they must be punished.

    • Petronius

      Good post, Curiosity.

      I would add that within the Federal civil service there is a significant difference between the civilian agencies and defense agencies. The defense agencies are much better managed, have a lower grade (pay) structure, fewer employees and bonuses, and tighter cost controls. Civilian agencies tend to be fat and lazy.


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