As the fans of furloughs are being fired, there are a few things for the federal manager to keep in mind.
Primarily, said John Palguta, Vice President for Policy at the Partnership for Public Service, remember furloughs are “always when you run out of money or run out of work.”
Don’t panic, Palguta told Federal News Radio, plan for it instead.
Keep in mind there are emergency furloughs for a lapse of appropriations (like the shutdown of ’95,) but Palguta said he doesn’t “see us heading in that direction. There were not good outcomes.” People realized government is necessary.
So if a furlough does occur in the next year, it’ll probably to be to save money, he said.
In that case, keep these points in mind:
“It’s about money and not about actual positions” – Palguta pointed out that one GS 15 is worth two GS 7’s, in terms of salary. In that scenario, if you have vacancies, you could leave your high level position open and staff two lower ones instead.
“I can’t keep everybody who’s currently here” – When faced with that situation, you can ask for volunteers for Leave Without Pay. “You could be surprised,” said Palguta. There may be someone who would like to take some time off and has socked away enough funds to cover the lost wages.
Another tip: leave positions vacant for a while. Even if you’re recruiting, continue doing that and wait to make the offer until funds are available.
And if you have contractors, it may be an option to decrease the amount of work being done by them.
All in all, reassured Palguta, “there’s usually some notice” if a shutdown is coming. “We’ll see it coming and you’ll have at least a few days” for planning.
Tom Temin is the host of The Federal Drive, which airs from 6-8 a.m. on 1500 AM in the Washington, D.C. region and online everywhere. Tom has 30 years experience in journalism, mostly in technology markets. Before coming to Federal News Radio, he was a long-serving editor-in-chief of Government Computer News and Washington Technology magazines.