Furlough run marks start of sequester leave for Defense employees

The Defense furloughs that began Monday have prompted some affected workers to mark the day with an unofficial “Run for Freedom” and share their experiences on a special Facebook page.

(FILES) This December 26, 2011 file photo shows the Pentagon building in Washington, DC. Despite heated campaign rhetoric, US President Barack Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney mostly share common ground on national security issues but they are sharply at odds over the defense budget. AFP PHOTO/FILESSTAFF/AFP/Getty Images
(AFP/Getty Images)

The 5-mile run, stretching from the Pentagon to the Capitol, is scheduled to start Monday at 5:30 p.m. As for the Facebook page, the title says it all: “How I Spent My Furlough Day.”

Defense Department civilian employees face 11 days of unpaid leave as a result of the automatic spending cuts known as the sequester. That’s among the highest number of furlough days for any federal agency.

The time off amounts to a 20 percent pay cut for hundreds of thousands of defense civilian workers over the next three months, and it could disrupt operations at installations throughout the country, according to Pentagon officials.

The 20-percent reduction in hours led to a lighthearted motto for Monday’s run. A logo for the event reads: “Providing for the nation’s defense … 80% of the time.”

Entries on the Facebook page show mixed reactions to the situation, with some employees making light of it while others lament their lost income.

“So, I just felt the first psychic pinch of furlough: Somehow, the $700 in unanticipated car repairs hurts just a wee bit more than usual,” said Beth Flores.

Christine Smith focused on the bright side, saying: “Furlough means no-alarm Mondays until October. I have to admit, I feel 20% happier already.”

Apparently, there was no such sleeping in for Don Dees, who wrote: “Started my first furlough day leading a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class … Practicing a few chokes at 5:30 a.m. is a great way to beat the stress of furlough and loss of salary!”

Pentagon officials have warned that continuing the 10-year sequester could require layoffs next year, meaning the impacts could grow worse over time.

To connect with Josh Hicks, follow his Twitter feed, friend his Facebook page or e-mail josh.hicks@washpost.comFor more federal news, visit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics. E-mail federalworker@washpost.com with news tips and other suggestions.

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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