State Department’s no furloughs for now policy adds a variant on sequester’s impact

March 4, 2013

The State Department has added yet another variant to the messages federal workers are receiving regarding sequestration’s impact, telling its employees that it doesn’t expect furloughs — at least not yet.

A memo to employees dated Feb. 28, the day before sequestration formally hit, says that State and its sister Agency for International Development will need to cut about 5 percent of their spending, or $2.6 billion.


“According to Departmental projections, furloughs should not be required through the third quarter of FY 2013,” it says, referring to the government’s fiscal year, the third quarter of which ends June 30. “Operating at these reduced levels will be challenging. We continue to be concerned with the potential negative impact on our Civil Service, Foreign Service and Locally Employed Staff.”

It says the department plans to slow hiring in March. And, as of April, it expects to impose a partial hiring freeze, filling only one of every two open positions. Also, expenses for equipment and travel are being delayed, it said.

The memo says that foreign nationals employed by the department are exempt from being ordered to take unpaid days off; the Defense Department has said the same of the foreign nationals it employs.

AID previously had told its employees that it doesn’t expect to furlough any employees for the entire fiscal year and that it is planning steps including a hiring freeze and reducing management support contracts and information technology purchases.

Other agencies that have said they don’t expect furloughs include the Government Accountability Office, the Architect of the Capitol, the Small Business Administration and the Smithsonian Institution.

Other variants on sequester-related policies to emerge so far include:

  • The Veterans Affairs Department — which employs more than 300,000 workers, about a seventh of the federal workforce outside the U.S. Postal Service — is exempt by law. USPS also is exempt because of its self-funding nature, although its already severe financial troubles could be worsened by spillover effects on the economy. Also self-funding and exempt are the Thrift Savings Plan, which administers the federal employee 401(k)-type program, and “non-appropriated fund” entities, most of them Defense Department operations such as officers’ clubs.
  • The Justice Department already has formally notified some employees of its plan to furlough them for 14 days, and the National Labor Relations Board has given employees notice of an expected 22 days. Such notices trigger a 30-day waiting period, meaning furloughs could begin as early as late March.
  • The IRS has not sent formal notices, but it has told employees in a memo that it expects to impose between five and seven days of furloughs “beginning sometime in the summer, after the filing season ends, and possibly through the remainder of the fiscal year.”
  • The Defense Department has said for weeks that it plans to furlough all of its employees except for foreign nationals and a few other limited categories for 22 days over the same number of weeks, starting the third week in April. It has said it plans to send formal notices around March 15.
  • The Department of Homeland Security expects furloughs of up to 14 days in many sub-agencies such as U.S. Customs and Border Protection; however, it said it expects only seven days in one of them, the Transportation Security Administration.
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Josh Hicks · March 4, 2013