Without a budget accord, Pentagon prepares for furloughs

 

McClatchy Newspapers

Tanks would not roll, fighter jets would be grounded and aircraft carriers might be stuck dockside.

In addition, the Defense’s Department 800,000-member civilian workforce likely would go without paychecks at times throughout the year if mandatory federal budget cuts go into effect March 1, top Pentagon officials said Wednesday.

The department, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in a memo to employees, “will be forced to place the vast majority of its civilian workforce on administrative furlough.”

Moreover, by the end of September, two-thirds of U.S. Army combat troops would be “unacceptable” in terms of military readiness, potentially affecting the ability to deploy warriors to replace those already deployed, officials said.

“There is no mistaking that the rigid nature of the cuts forced upon this department, and their scale, will result in a serious erosion of readiness across the force,” Panetta wrote.

With barely a week to go before the $85 billion in across-the-board federal budget cuts become reality, defense officials released the most detailed look to date of their effects. The looming budget ax is the result of the inability of Democrats and Republicans to reach a deal that would satisfy their own agreed-to Budget Control Act of 2011.

The Pentagon is faced with $46 billion in cuts. Asked during a press conference if such dire outcomes weren’t simply scare tactics, Comptroller Robert Hale said, “We don’t have a lot of choices. . . . I think we’re going to have serious readiness effects. I don’t see where we’re going to get the money. We’re going to have to cut back on training significantly.”

While troops already deployed won’t be directly affected by these deep cuts, the lack of training could affect future deployments, especially in the Army, but across all the services.

Acting Under Secretary of Defense Jessica Wright said that the cuts would be felt by everyone, in all services and in all locations. She noted the “invaluable service” of civilian employees and said that furloughs would leave military personnel worrying about spouses and kids at home who rely on the Pentagon’s civilian workforce for various services, like commissaries, schools and medical care.

“The effects of sequestration on the military will be devastating, but on our civilians, it will be catastrophic,” she said. “These critical members of our work force work in our depots, they maintain and repair our tanks, our aircraft, our ships.”

The pain of these budget cuts would reverberate through many parts of the United States, Wright said. The Pentagon released a state-by-state breakdown of the expected lost wages for civilian employees if furloughs begin, as is now expected, toward the end of April.

In his memo, Panetta said that employees with impending furloughs would be notified at least 30 days ahead of time.

Employees in 50 states would lose income, resulting in net losses, from $660 million in Virginia to $3 million in Vermont. In all, the civilian furloughs would result in a savings of about $4.6 billion in the United States and $265 million at installations around the world.

While not all Defense Department civilians would be looking at pay cuts that they noted come close to 20 percent for over half a fiscal year, the exempted employees are few and include those in war zones, those essential to protect life and property, and political appointees.

In all, sequestration would lead to “cutbacks and delays in 2,500 defense programs,” officials said, and could result in military contract costs increasing in future years.

Email:mschofield@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @mattschodcnews

Read more Politics Wires stories from the Miami Herald

  • Obama to rename Africa program for Nelson Mandela

    A program designed to foster a new generation of young African leaders will be renamed after former South African President Nelson Mandela.

  •  
This third page of a four page document released by the U.S. State Department in Washington, July 27, 2014, shows a satellite image that purports to shows a before and after close-up of the artillery strike depicted in the lower portion of the inset in the previous graphic. The United States says the images back up its claims that rockets have been fired from Russia into eastern Ukraine and heavy artillery for separatists has also crossed the border.

    US: Russia has fired rockets into Ukraine

    Stepping up pressure on Moscow, the U.S. has released satellite images it says show that rockets have been fired from Russia into neighboring eastern Ukraine and that heavy artillery for separatists has crossed the border.

  •  
FILE - In this July 24, 2014, file photo, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., right, with Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. The chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees have reached a tentative agreement on a plan to fix a veterans' health program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records covering up delays. Miller and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., scheduled a news conference Monday, July 28, to talk about a compromise plan to improve veterans' care.

    After 6 weeks, finally a deal on VA health care

    After more than six weeks of sometimes testy talks, House and Senate negotiators have agreed on a compromise plan to fix a veterans health program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records covering up delays.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category