Pentagon Warns Of ‘Catastrophic’ Furloughs As Sequester Looms

Pentagon Warns Sequester Furloughs

The Pentagon has warned of “catastrophic” furloughs should the impending “sequester” budget cuts go through. The Defense Department officially notified its 800,000 civilian employees that they would be placed on furloughs if the budget cuts happen.

The Obama administration is struggling to work through congressionally mandated budget cuts, which will kick in next week.

The Washington Post reports that both Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta warned of the furloughs in a memo issued Wednesday. Panetta stated:

“There is no mistaking that the rigid nature of the cuts forced upon this department, and their scale, will result in a serious erosion of readiness across the force.”

Nine days are left before the $85 billion budget cuts will automatically take place. Some Democrats are calling on Republican leaders to reconvene the House immediately. That way they can work on a way to avert the spending reductions. Both the House and the Senate are currently in recess.

The Defense Department’s furloughs, which would hit 800,000 civilian workers, would eat up between $4 million and $5 million, notes CNN. About half of the government-wide sequester will hit the Pentagon. Along with furloughs, the Pentagon would have to reduce several training programs and weapons programs across all services.

Office staff aircraft and ship maintenance workers, teachers, and medical staff would all see furloughs. But Defense Department civilian foreign employees would not see pay cuts.

The Pentagon will have to notify Congress at least 45 days before it furloughs employees after its $46 billion in budget cuts. Panetta’s memo on Wednesday assured that employees would be notified at least 30 days before they are put on furlough. He added that he hopes the cuts will be avoided.

Even if Congress and the White House do not come up with a plan by March 1, it is still possible that they will come to an agreement in the coming weeks to spare the Pentagon. There is no sign that Republicans and the White House will be able to come to an agreement before the end of next week. Both sides have accused each other of not compromising to create a bipartisan agreement.

[Image by David Shapinsky from Washington, D.C., United States [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons]