A great hue and cry occurred in March when agencies suddenly realized the long- dreaded sequester was actually going to happen.
As agency heads struggled to find ways to offset billions of dollars in unexpected, automatic budget cuts, the threat of furloughs — temporary unpaid leave — became a reality for many federal workers.
The graph below compares the number of furlough days originally prescribed by agencies to the number actually taken by employees.
While some agencies anticipated many furlough days, the actual number turned out to be much smaller. Other agencies were able to find savings elsewhere and avoid furloughs altogether.
Furloughs at some agencies have received more attention due to their complexity, as well as the number of employees affected.
Defense Department: Two weeks into March, the Pentagon announced it would furlough its civilian employees for a total of 22 days. Later, it trimmed that number to 14, and then in May, it reduced the number again to 11 furlough days. On Aug. 6, the Pentagon said it had found sufficient savings to reduce furloughs for a final time this fiscal year. After all was said and done, DoD civilian employees ended up taking a total of six furlough days.
Environmental Protection Agency: The EPA planned for a total of 79 furlough hours, approximately 10 days, divided into two phases. During Phase 1, EPA employees were furloughed for 32 hours, or four, eight-hours days. In Phase 2, EPA employees were originally scheduled to be furloughed for 47 hours, approximately six days. The agency ended up reducing that number to 15 hours, or approximately two days. Overall, EPA employees were furloughed for six days.
Federal Aviation Administration: Amid objections that furloughing air traffic controllers would cause major travel delays and present safety concerns, the FAA embarked on a bi-weekly furlough schedule in April. After one week of coast-to- coast delays, Congress allowed the FAA to cancel its furloughs.
Internal Revenue Service: The IRS originally planned for five furlough days but canceled one scheduled for July 22 and postponed another set for Aug. 30. So far, IRS employees have taken three furlough days. The agency will reassess whether it needs an additional furlough day next month before the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.