U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King applaud the announcement today that the Department of Defense is working to minimize furloughs for civilian employees.
In a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Senators Collins and King urged him to minimize furloughs by using the flexibility afforded to the Secretary in the Continuing Resolution that passed the Senate, with their support, last week. The Continuing Resolution included a full Fiscal Year 2013 Defense Appropriations bill, which Senators Collins and King fought to include.
In their letter, the senators urge the Secretary to consider the harmful impact that furloughs would have on the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, the Maine National Guard, and DFAS-Limestone, and how the harm caused by furloughs could outweigh any potential cost-savings.
Below is the full text of the letter:
Dear Secretary Hagel:
We are writing to urge you to use the flexibility afforded to you in the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013 (P.L. 113-6) to minimize the furloughs of DOD personnel or to avoid them all together.
We recognize the challenges associated with implementing the cuts mandated under sequestration and the difficult decisions that will have to be made. In many instances, however, furloughs will cause more harm than any cost savings that can be reaped from them. While we will describe a few examples, we are certain there are dozens of other examples throughout the country that warrant your close attention.
For example, at Navy shipyards, furloughs will result in longer repairs for ships and submarines that will be required to stay in port or dry dock for more days. The consequences at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard are that submarines will be unavailable to the fleet for deployment, and equipment rental and other fixed costs will increase for every day the vessels are in dry dock longer than planned.
The Maine National Guard has 515 dual-status technicians who are full-time, uniformed National Guard Soldiers and Airmen potentially subject to furlough. These technicians not only serve at the headquarters in Augusta and at the 101st Air Refueling Wing in Bangor, but also throughout the state as logisticians, budget managers, operations and training officers, family program managers, as well as mechanics and aircrews supporting the ongoing, full-time operational capability of the Northeast Tanker Task Force. They also comprise virtually the entire senior military staff of Maine's Army Guard and the entire senior leadership of the Air Guard.
These furloughs would damage the readiness and morale of all Maine National Guard units as well as dramatically affect the nearly one out of four Maine Guardsmen who will deploy during the next year in the state's most extensive deployment cycle since 2006. In a response to a request for information, the Adjutant General also advised that the decision to furlough these technicians would degrade the combat readiness of deploying Army Guard units and hinder the reintegration of other units when they return home this summer and fall.
Finally, DFAS-Limestone is one of several entities that pay the bills on-time for the Department of Defense and contribute to achieving the goal of making the DOD audit-ready by 2014, a milestone already met by every other federal department. Furloughs at DFAS-Limestone and elsewhere will make it more difficult to process claims and pay bills in a timely fashion, and as a result, could delay achievement of this important DOD goal, which is critical to full accountability, efficiency, and transparency in the financing of the largest bureaucracy in the world.
The costs of furloughs will not only be reflected in military readiness and DOD's strategic goals, but also in the morale and pocketbooks of a workforce that could face up to a 20 percent cut in pay between now and October 1. The decrease in salaries and wages is not limited to the confines of the military installations; instead, the reduction in consumer spending will ripple through families of civilian employees, the supply chain, and every state and local community that is home to a DOD installation or personnel.
The costs of furloughs are real. We respectfully urge you to make every reasonable effort to mitigate the impact that such indiscriminate reductions in spending could have on members of our federal workforce, including those employed at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (PNSY), National Guard technicians, and employees working to make DOD audit-ready.
As Congress works towards a longer-term fiscal agreement with the President, we ask that you take appropriate steps to mitigate the impact of sequestration on DOD civilian employees. For example, as installation commanders negotiate furlough schedules with employee representatives, we encourage you to afford them the maximum flexibility possible, if such furloughs cannot be avoided. These are basic steps we can take to ensure that federal employees are provided with at least some flexibility under these difficult circumstances.
Sequestration is not a solution to our nation's fiscal crisis. In fact, this action will cause the federal government to default on a number of its contracts, the penalties of which will reduce any projected savings. We need a thoughtful, long-term deficit reduction plan that realistically addresses our fiscal challenges and encourages economic growth.
Susan M. Collins
United States Senator
Angus S. King, Jr.
United States Senator