Asteroid strike, furloughs – it’s always something

As you probably know, an asteroid about the size of the average building in downtown Washington, D.C., (12 to 13 stories) is heading for Earth. That’s the bad news.

According to NASA, the 130- to 160-foot long space streaker will miss us by 17,000 miles. That’s the good news.

So, unless NASA is wrong and that 130-foot long rock actually hits Earth on Friday, the biggest problem facing federal workers, government contractors and the people who depend on them is the prospect of furloughs.

If Congress and the White House fail to reach agreement on spending or tax cuts, Uncle Sam will send hundreds of thousands of workers home. Worse-case scenario, like the Defense Department, would be one-day-per-week furloughs between March and the end of the current fiscal year, Sept. 30. Other agencies (like Treasury’s Bureau of the Public Debt and Financial Management Service) believe they can make the necessary savings without resorting to layoffs.


(Think about it: This time last year if somebody said they were going to sequester your sister you would have probably slugged them. Now that we know what it really means (sort of) we still don’t like the idea. But it is no longer a dueling offense).

Thanks to this game of legislative chicken, being played by the House, Senate and White House, productivity has probably slowed as agencies plan for and brace for a March 1 shutdown.

Prepping for possible furloughs has been a full-time job for many workers in many agencies. They’ve had to dust off previous shutdown guidelines, parse words, talk with lawyers to determine how things will work when hardly anybody is working because they are not allowed to work. Forced furloughs raise lots of questions. For example:

  • Can furloughed feds take a day of vacation to preserve their full paycheck? Answer — no!
  • Can a furloughed fed take a day of sick leave instead? Answer — probably not. If you do it, the smartest move is to probably just die to tie up loose ends.
  • Will this sequestration, if it happens, be like previous shutdowns? What’s the difference between the shutdown of 1995-96 and a smaller one in the FAA last year? Feds got retroactive pay from Congress after the 1990s shutdown. But Congress said ‘no’ to retroactive pay last year. The Transportation Department found the money to pay the furloughed workers. What happens this time if what we are afraid might happen happens?

Today at 10 a.m., EST Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, will join our Your Turn radio show to talk about the lead up to sequestration, and what forced furloughs would mean to federal workers, contractors and the general public.

Later in the show, Federal Times reporter Stephen Losey will give us the latest on the sequestration struggle, the possibility of a 1 percent pay raise, the OMB furlough instructions and the American Federation of Government Employees report on possible cuts in government contracts.

Listen if you can (1500 AM or online), and if you have questions email them to me at or call in during the show at (202) 465-3080. The show will be archived here.


Compiled by Jack Moore

The most overused phrase in the English language (currently) is “At the end of the day.” That’s according to scholars at Oxford University, who combed through a database of magazines newspapers and Internet publications

(Source: WTOP)


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