Never-gonna-happen furloughs happening

Furloughs are a down-the-road threat for most federal workers. Some agencies (Defense) have revised downward both the number of likely furlough days and the number of feds who will be hit. Others have revised the start day for furloughs (originally this month for some agencies), pushing them back to May and June. But…

For all the stalling and revision produced by various interpretations of the mission-impossible sequestration plan, some people have been and are being furloughed. Right now.

Federal News Radio has heard from several defense contractors who say they have already started one day per week of indefinite furloughs. An Air Force contractor said he has already been furloughed two days in a two-week period, and he said he expects it will continue.

Earlier this month, an employee of the judicial branch corrected me when I wrote in the April 6 column that “…no permanent full-time fed has been furloughed yet.” Wrong, she says. And she should know:


“I had my first of 13 scheduled furlough days on Friday, as did my husband. We are federal public defenders. Some public defender offices are taking 19 furlough days, some are taking 28, some are taking 35, all before Sept. 30. We have been told we’ll probably have 19, not 13.

“As devastating as this is going to be for the individual employees (think about the secretaries, receptionists, and legal assistants who do not make what the attorneys make), there will be significant impacts on the operation of the federal courts. Some federal defender offices, despite instituting furloughs, have laid off employees and may have to lay off more. Without lawyers and support staff, and without money for interpreters, transcripts and experts, our offices cannot function. Without a functioning defender, the cases cannot be tried. Here is how The Washington Post explained it:

“This is a serious issue that is not getting enough attention in Congress.” — Jenn

Here’s a comment from a long-time worker who says proposed changes in health benefits and retirement rules amount to a breach of contract. He wrote:

“I am frustrated by the continuing assault on federal benefits. It appears that people are certain the system is broken. If this situation is as clear cut as they say it is, why is the approach ‘Let’s propose targeted changes in each of the areas of benefits,’ rather than ‘Let’s revise the system as a whole and create the third iteration of a federal personnel system and have at it and create a new system that makes sense for today’s government?’

“Rather than bombard the civil servants that keep this country functioning with an ongoing battering of benefit reduction proposals, it only seems fair to honor the contract we signed on and create a new formula suited to changed conditions. Plus this would create a line in the sand and stop adding people to a personnel system that they view is broken and enact real, permanent changes as appropriate. Or is developing a comprehensive solution too hard of a problem in D.C. these days?” — Long Time Reader


Compiled by Jack Moore

(Editor’s Note: Don’t read during breakfast)

Astronauts on the 1969 Apollo 10 mission were menaced by a “floating piece of feces,” according to recently released transcripts.

“Give me a napkin, quick,” Tom Stafford said to his fellow astronauts. “There’s a turd floating through the air.”

(Source: UPI Odd News)


Pentagon considers cutting civilian furlough days down to 7
Senior Pentagon leaders are taking another look at sharply reducing the number of unpaid furlough days that department civilians will have to take in the coming months, suggesting they may be able to cut the number from 14 to as few as seven, defense officials said Thursday.

Congress repeals STOCK Act reporting requirements for senior execs
Congress approved a bill Friday to eliminate expanded financial-disclosure reporting requirements for 28,000 Senior Executive Service members, just days before the new requirements were to go into effect. The bill indefinitely suspends the filing requirements for SES members.

FEHBP modernization plan receives cautious optimism from Hill
Lawmakers are far from satisfied with the White House’s proposals to change the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee members Thursday wanted more details and data from the Office of Personnel Management before committing to any of the ideas. Still, committee members expressed the belief that the 50-year-old law creating the FEHBP is in need of a major update.

Feds hail OPM’s John Berry as an ‘advocate’ and ‘champion’
On John Berry’s final day as director of the Office of Personnel Management, the consensus from federal employees and employee groups he has worked with the past four years is that his shoes will be hard to fill. Those interviewed by Federal News Radio said he has been the utmost advocate for feds in a tough political climate of furlough talk, budget negotiations and a rebounding economy.