Furlough Watch: Potential Agency-by-Agency Impacts of Sequestration

Furlough Watch: Potential Agency-by-Agency Impacts of Sequestration

Air traffic controllers are likely to be among the federal employees furloughed.
Air traffic controllers are likely to be among the federal employees furloughed. David Goldman/AP file photo

The across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration now scheduled to hit in two days would have serious implications for federal workers, including mandatory unpaid furloughs for hundreds of thousands of employees, beginning in April. We have compiled a list of possible agency-by-agency effects, should Congress and President Obama fail to reach a deficit reduction agreement in time to avoid the cuts. We will update the list as more information becomes available. Please use the comment section below to let us know if you have additional information about your agency.

Agriculture Department:  Food Safety and Inspection Service employees would be furloughed for approximately two weeks, the White House said in a Feb. 8 fact sheet.

Defense Department: Secretary Leon Panetta on Feb. 20 informed lawmakers that sequestration would force the Pentagon to put the “vast majority” of its 800,000 civilian workers on administrative furlough. The furloughs would begin in late April and would occur one day a week for up to 22 discontinuous work days.

Education Department:  Secretary Arne Duncan testified Feb. 14 before the Senate Appropriations Committee that he expected furloughs. “The sequester would … likely require the department to furlough many of its own employees for multiple days,” he wrote in a Feb. 1 letter to the committee.” The letter did not provide an exact number of employees who would be affected.

Environmental Protection Agency: Employees would be furloughed a total of six days between April and September, according to a union official. The furlough days would break down as follows: from April 21 to June 15, each EPA employee would have to take one day of leave without pay per paid period, for four pay periods. From July 5 through Sept. 30, each employee would be required to take two furlough days.

Federal Aviation Administration: Almost all 47,000 workers would be furloughed for one-to-two days per pay period, according to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and FAA head Michael Huerta. Air traffic control towers at 100 airports would be closed, and midnight shifts at many smaller airports would be dropped. This could lead to 90-minute delays during peak travel times for flights to major cities, LaHood and Huerta said in their Feb. 22 letter to airline industry groups and unions.

Federal courts: 20,000 employees could be furloughed for 16 days.

Government Accountability Office: Plans to avoid furloughs, according to The Washington Post. But, the sequester would affect hiring, employee benefits and travel and contract spending, according to Feb. 26 testimony from Comptroller General Gene Dodaro.

Government Printing Office: Will save money by scaling back technology and other investments,  but “if necessary, a furlough of GPO’s workforce may also be implemented,” acting Public Printer Davita Vance-Cook testified before a House subcommittee on Feb. 26.

Homeland Security Department: Law enforcement personnel would face furloughs of up to 14 days, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a Feb. 13 letter to House lawmakers. She did not provide a specific number of employees affected but said it would be a “significant portion” of the department’s front-line law enforcement staff.

Housing and Urban Development: Secretary Shaun Donovan told the Senate Appropriations Committee furloughs could be necessary. “Specific plans are still being reviewed and finalized, but we believe that furloughs or other personnel actions may well be required to comply with cuts mandated by sequestration,” he said in Feb. 14 testimony.

Interior Department: Secretary Ken Salazar has warned about furloughs of thousands of employees. The National Parks Service plans to furlough permanent staff if other cost-savings measures fail.

Justice Department:  Would furlough hundreds of federal prosecutors, according to the White House. FBI Director Robert Mueller has said $550 million in cuts to the bureau “would have the net effect of cutting 2,285 employees — including 775 agents — through furloughs and a hiring freeze,” according to the FBI Agents Association.

NASA: 20,500 contractors could lose their jobs. The agency has not notified federal employees of any furlough possibility, but a spokesman told Government Executive on Feb. 25 that “all possible effects” of sequestration are “still being assessed.”

Nuclear Regulatory Commission: Has ruled out furloughs or salary cuts.

Small Business Administration: No furloughs; will rely on an anticipated reduction in a certain type of loan to cut costs, according to an Associated Press report.

Smithsonian: Does not anticipate furloughs.

Social Security Administration: Remains “uncertain” about reducing its employees’ hours, which would save about $25 million per furlough day, according to a Feb. 1 letter to Congress. It will instead try to reach the reduced budget level through attrition.

Veterans Affairs DepartmentMostly exempt from sequestration.

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