Pentagon plans to reduce number of unpaid furlough days - Omaha.com
Published Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 2:33 am
Pentagon plans to reduce number of unpaid furlough days

WASHINGTON — Civilian workers at Offutt Air Force Base welcomed news Tuesday that the Pentagon plans to reduce the number of their unpaid furlough days this summer from 14 to 11, but they would like to see that figure continue to drop.

“My hope and prayer is that it will end up being zero,” said Julie Sheehan, president of Offutt's civilian employees union.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is expected to officially announce the reduction in furlough days as early as this afternoon when he speaks to Defense Department civilians in Virginia. Furlough notices should go out in the next few weeks and the unpaid days off begin in early to mid-July. The furloughs are a response to congressionally mandated automatic budget cuts, commonly known as sequestration, and affect most of the department's 800,000 civilian employees.

Each day they can eliminate is a step in the right direction, Sheehan said, but the union feels they could be eliminated altogether if the department focused on cutting wasteful spending. She said just one example would be the cost of flyovers during ceremonial events.

“To watch that waste go on knowing that we are going to have a 20 percent salary cut for 11 days is difficult for all of us,” she said.

The Pentagon's moves also do not go far enough for some lawmakers.

Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., said through spokesman Larry Farnsworth that the chief of staff of the Air Force had assured Congress that the Pentagon would be able to “significantly” reduce furloughs as a result of a spending bill passed earlier this year and designed to provide the defense department with greater flexibility.

While the drop in furlough days is an improvement, Terry still does not feel it is “significant,” Farnsworth said.

“Secretary Hagel should continue to work on this issue,” Farnsworth said. “If we can find the flexibility in the FAA to avoid furloughs, we ought to be able to find ways to avoid them for those individuals vital to our national security.”

Defense officials said that at this point, notification deadlines and other administrative requirements make it difficult for the department to squeeze in more than 12 furlough days by the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. They said some senior leaders, including Hagel, wanted to reduce the furloughs as much as possible and had been meeting repeatedly in recent weeks to crunch the numbers.

At first, the defense department pegged the number of furlough days at 22 — one in each of the last 22 weeks of the fiscal year. After the new spending bill was passed at the end of March, the furlough days were cut to 14.

Overall, defense officials say that about 15 percent of the department's civilian workforce will be exempt from the furloughs. Some of those workers include civilians in the war zone and in critical public safety jobs, as well as people whose jobs are not paid for through congressional funding. As an example, some employees may be contractors or people working in facilities that pay for operations out of their earnings, such as some recreation jobs or foreign military sales.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing deliberations.

Dropping the number of furlough days below 10 has been a major discussion point because under the rules, civilian workers could lose a sick day and a vacation day if they take 80 hours of unpaid leave. But all the other costs and priorities made that too difficult.

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

Contact the writer:

202-630-4823, joe.morton@owh.com

twitter.com/MortonOWH

Contact the writer: Joseph Morton

joe.morton@owh.com    |  

Joe is The World-Herald's Washington, D.C., bureau, covering national political developments that matter most to Midlanders.

8% of alcohol sellers checked in Omaha area last week sold booze to minors
OPS bus, SUV collide; no students onboard at the time
Waitress who served alcohol to teen before fatal crash gets jail time, probation
Lori Jenkins, charged as accessory in 4 murders, waives speedy trial
Iowa State servers hacked, nearly 30,000 SSNs at risk
New public employee pay data: Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy Counties, plus utilities
2nd District House race: After 8 terms, Lee Terry knows how D.C. works — and doesn't
Bellevue man is killed at Minnesota dance hall after South Sudanese basketball tourney
Spring corn planting still sputters in Nebraska, Iowa, other key states
Nebraska banking and finance director to retire
19-year-old killed in one-vehicle crash at 72nd & Shirley
Gov. Heineman vetoes bill to ease restrictions on nurse practitioners
U.S. Senate race: State Auditor Mike Foley defends Shane Osborn against ad campaign
Public defender to represent Nikko Jenkins in sentencing
Mid-America Center on track for lower operating loss
Bluffs City Council approves dozens of new numbered street lights
National Law Enforcement Memorial Week set for May
Ted Cruz backs Pete Ricketts' campaign for governor
Omahan charged with 5th-offense DUI after street race causes rollover
2 blocks of Grover Street closed
Safety board report blames pilot error in 2013 crash that killed UNO student, passenger
Omaha man accused in shooting ordered held on $75,000 bail
2 men charged with conspiracy to distribute meth held on $1 million bail each
La Vista plans meeting on sales tax proposal, 84th Street redevelopment
6-mile stretch of Highway 75 is the road not taken
< >
COLUMNISTS »
Breaking Brad: Into the claw machine! Florida kid follows Lincoln kid's lead
In Fort Lauderdale, Fla., a child climbed inside a claw machine. Hey, Florida kid: Nobody likes a copycat.
Breaking Brad: Even Chuck Hassebrook's throwing mud!
The Nebraska campaigns have turned so ugly, Democrat Chuck Hassebrook lobbed unfounded accusations at an imaginary opponent.
Breaking Brad: Kraft wiener recall is business opportunity for TD Ameritrade Park
Instead of returning the wieners, TD Ameritrade Park is calling them "cheese dogs" and charging double.
Breaking Brad: Photos with the Easter Bunny are so 2010
In a sign of the times, most kids ran out of patience waiting for a photo with the Easter Bunny at the mall, just snapped a selfie and went home.
Kelly: 70 years after a deadly D-Day rehearsal, Omahan, WWII vet will return to Europe
A World War II veteran from Omaha will return this week to Europe to commemorate a tragedy in the run-up to D-Day.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
Tokyo Sushi
$5 for $10 or $10 for $20 toward All-You-Can-Eat Sushi Purchase
Buy Now
PHOTO GALLERIES »
< >
SPOTLIGHT »
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
WORLD-HERALD ALERTS »
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for Omaha.com's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »