Furlough Watch: Agency-by-Agency Impacts of Sequestration

Furlough Watch: Agency-by-Agency Impacts of Sequestration

  • March 5, 2013
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

This report has been updated. 

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.

Army: Letters to unions dated Feb. 28 and March 1 said federal employees at the Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground in Gunpowder, Md., and with the Corps of Engineers in Walla Walla, Wash., will have to take unpaid leave one day a week from April 22 through Sept. 21, according to CNN.

Broadcasting Board of Governors: The agency does not anticipate needing to furlough employees this year, according to a memo obtaind by Government Executive. BBG is required to reduce spending by approximately 5 percent, or $37.6 million, by September 30, the memo said. It will do so by freezing hiring, eliminating bonuses, postponing technical upgrades and reducing broadcasts.

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. (See separate Army entry.)

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 could be subject to as many as 13 furlough days, according to a Feb. 26 internal message from acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe. “We are working to minimize the burden on employees and maintain our ability to do our job,” he wrote. “Decisions are not final yet, but one of the ways in which we are trying to soften the impact is by evaluating the furlough need in phases.” For instance, the agency is looking into requiring four furlough days before June 1, and then reevaluating the budget situation to see if further furloughs are necessary.

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.

Internal Revenue Service: Employees could expect a total of five to seven furlough days by the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, acting Commissioner Steven T. Miller said in a memo to employees. The furloughs would begin “sometime in the summer, after the filing season ends,” he wrote. Employees would have no more than one furlough day per pay period.

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. The Office of Management and Budget on Feb. 27 said Justice had already sent out formal furlough notices.

Labor Department: Acting Labor Secretary Seth Harris told employees in a Feb. 20 email that “not all agencies will be able to find the savings required” and these agencies will be forced to “place staff on unpaid furloughs.”

National Institutes of Health: Director Francis Collins said during a Feb. 25 conference call with reporters that the agency would “do everything we can to avoid furloughs.” He said that furloughs would barely help the agency manage a 5 percent cut since a bulk of the budget was spent on grants and funding for research. Areas that could face the axe include travel and conference spending, Collins said.

National Labor Relations Board: Has issued formal furlough notices, according to OMB.

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.

National Nuclear Security Administration: Acting chief Neile Miller said it might not become clear until a month into sequestration whether the agency’s employees will have to be furloughed as a result of the across-the-board federal budget cuts.

Small Business Administration: The Small Business Administration will rely on staff cuts made through early retirements in 2012 to avoid furloughs, 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.

State Department: Won’t need furloughs, at least through June 30, according to The Washington Post.

Treasury Department: Acting Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin told the Senate Appropriations Committee earlier in February that the department would try to avoid furloughs by instituting hiring freezes, and reducing spending on support, travel, training and supplies, but noted that if the sequester takes effect, “most Treasury employees would face furloughs, which would have a cascading effect on employees’ families as well as on the economy at large.” The Internal Revenue Service would be particularly hard hit, he said (see separate IRS entry).

Veterans Affairs DepartmentMostly exempt from sequestration.

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