Sequester means up to 14 furlough days for Customs and Border Protection

February 21, 2013
(U.S. Department of Homeland Security) (U.S. Department of Homeland Security)

U.S. Customs and Border Protection will furlough its employees for up to 14 days this year if the automatic spending cuts known as the sequester kick in on March 1, according to a letter the agency sent to union officials this week.

The agency notified the National Border Patrol Council president on Wednesday of its plans for $754 million in spending reductions if lawmakers fail to come up with an alternative to the sequester in time for the deadline in eight days.

The letter said furloughs would be mandatory for all Customs and Border Protection employees, including management and workers without union representation. Notices would go out in mid-March, the agency said.

Other cuts would include an agency-wide hiring freeze, contract adjustments or delays, and reductions in travel, training, supplies, facilities, overtime and relocation reimbursement, according to the letter.

Figures included in the memo indicate that furloughs would save the agency about $234 million, while the remainder of the sequester savings would come through the other reductions.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano last week cautioned against the sequester, saying the reductions would roll back border security, increase wait times at ports of entry and airports, and produce a host of other consequences.

“Put simply, the automatic budget reduction mandated by sequestration would be destructive to our nation’s security and to our economy,” Napolitano said during testimony before the House Homeland Security Committee. “It would negatively affect the mission readiness and capabilities of the men and women on the front lines.”

Customs and Border Protection would require its workers to start paying the cost of voluntary relocations on their own if the cuts happen, and the agency would stop hiring new workers to fill vacancies in frontline positions as well, the letter said.

The agency already halted incentive pay for retention starting in December, according to the memo.

The letter to from Customs and Border Protection came at a time when sequester warnings are piling up and dozens of other federal agencies have warned of the potential for unpaid leave in the event that the sequester happens.

So far, only the Government Accountability Office stands out as a clear exception, having told its workers on Wednesday that it does not expect furloughs to be necessary if the spending cuts take effect.


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Josh Hicks covers Maryland politics and government. He previously anchored the Post’s Federal Eye blog, focusing on federal accountability and workforce issues.
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