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Sequester furloughs avoided for Customs and Border Protection

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Congress has approved a plan to avoid furloughs for U.S. Customs and Border Protection employees during fiscal 2013, according to a Wednesday statement from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

The announcement said CBP will also continue to pay for “administratively uncontrollable overtime,” which is given to Border Patrol agents who work irregular, unscheduled extra hours to fulfill their duties.

The agency initially planned to furlough employees for up to 14 days and de-authorize administratively uncontrollable overtime in an effort to trim costs under the government-wide spending cuts known as the sequester.

“The approval of this reprogramming request mitigates the challenges our workforce would have faced with furloughs and demonstrates the support of the entire department of CBP’s mission,” Napolitano said in her statement.

The labor group that represents customs agents applauded Congress’s decision to approve the plan. “No employee should face the loss of nearly three weeks pay — as would have been the case for CBP employees,” said National Treasury Employees Union president Colleen M. Kelley.

The NTEU noted that the reprogramming plan only deals with fiscal 2013, meaning furloughs are still a possibility in the future. The sequester is scheduled to continue until 2021 unless Congress and the president take action to end it.

Under the reprogramming plan, CBP will meet its sequester targets by continuing a hiring freeze, maintaining limited reductions in overtime, reducing travel and conferences, and forgoing certain types of bonuses, Napolitano said.

Kelley said NTEU has not seen a final copy of the plan. The Federal Eye has requested details from the Department of Homeland Security.

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