Attorney General Eric Holder sent notice to Justice Department employees Wednesday night that they will avoid any furloughs this fiscal year, a change of course from earlier warnings that up to 22 unpaid days were on the table.
In a letter to employees, Holder said new flexibility from Congress and “aggressive steps” the agency has taken to cut costs since the budget cuts known as sequestration took effect allowed him to eliminate the furlough threat.
But he warned that if sequestration continues in the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1, “furloughs are a distinct possibility.”
Holder had warned employees that the budget cuts could force about 116,000 Justice employees to be forced to take unpaid days.
“This action means that thousands of critical FBI and ATF agents, deputy U.S. marshals, prosecutors and other department employees will remain on the job protecting national security, fighting violent crime and enforcing our laws,” Holder wrote.
The reprieve for Justice employees is a stark contrast with the Federal Aviation Administration, which began furloughing 15,000 air traffic controllers this week, causing flights delays across the country.
Unlike the FAA, the Justice Department was given some flexibility from Congress to move money among its budget accounts in the temporary spending bill to fund the government through Sept. 30.