Navy releases guidance on potential furloughs for civilian employees

February 20, 2013

The Department of the Navy on Tuesday released talking points to help its senior leaders explain the furloughs that will impact civilian employees if Congress remains deadlocked over budget matters.

To review, the government faces automatic spending cuts known as sequestration if lawmakers fail to reach a deficit-reduction deal by March 1. After that, Congress has to come up with a new budget before the existing temporary spending plan expires on March 27 in order to avoid a shutdown.

The Navy’s memo provides insight into what other military departments are likely to say about these matters in coming days.

According to the talking points, the government will provide Congress and unions with notification of the potential for furloughs sometime this week.

If the sequester occurs, workers subject to furlough would receive 30 days notice of unpaid leave, with letters arriving sometime around March 15 and the time off beginning in late April, the memo said.

Under sequestration, furloughs would affect nearly all civilian employees, with “rare exceptions” applying to:

1.) Civilians deployed in combat zones

2.) Employees “needed to prevent unacceptable risk or catastrophic gaps in the safety and protection of life or property”

3.) Employees funded entirely with non-appropriated funds

4.) Employees exempt by law, such as presidential appointees

5.) Foreign nationals only if furlough exemptions are required by a status-of-forces agreement

Sequester furloughs would last no more than 22 days — with up to 16 hours of unpaid leave per week, according to the talking points. Affected workers would not be allowed to substitute paid leave or other time off for the furloughs, the memo said.

Individual commands and the U.S. Marine Corps would also not be allowed to use contract funding or premium pay to offset furloughs, nor would they be able to transfer inherently governmental work to contractors, according to the talking points.

Commanders from the Department of the Navy’s budget setting offices would determine hours and time of furloughs depending upon mission requirements, the memo said.

In the event of a shutdown, which could happen even if Congress avoids sequestration, “mission critical employees” would be exempt from furloughs, according to the talking points.

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Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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