Sequestration slaps feds, punches contractors

Wednesday - 5/15/2013, 2:00am EDT

The one thing that most Washington-based politicians — be they Democratic or Republican — agree on (at least in private) is that sequestration is sort of dumb. It's the political equivalent of using a hair dryer in the shower. Or perching your plug-in radio on the edge of the bathtub. Not a good idea.

When first hatched, many predicted that sequestration was so horrible — a sort of Washington Doomsday Machine — that it would never happen. The mandatory across-the-board cuts in vital (and politically sacred) programs meant it wouldn't happen. Except it did.

The brilliant idea of furloughing millions of federal workers from Maine to California struck some as a gesture that might bite back. And costly and irritating as the brief FAA furloughs showed. Sequestration-triggered layoffs of thousands of federal contractors seems counterproductive, especially when the sluggish job market is holding back economic recovery.

While the no-exceptions, across-the-board cuts and mandatory furloughs-for-all seem to be developing cracks, government contractors are feeling the pain. They are being fired or furloughed at an increasing rate.

"If I get a call from headquarters, I ignore it," said one contractor who primarily teleworks from home when he is not traveling. "I was getting really sick of travel until this happened. Now, I figure if I get an out-of-town assignment they aren't going to fire me while I am on the road."

Another said that the only hope he has for keeping his job is "if things in Syria heat up ... or if there is military trouble elsewhere." He said "that's a helluva lousy motivation for keeping your job, but it's true."

Even though sequestration seems to be winding down, furloughs are still on the horizon for many feds. But, with few exceptions, that seems to be changing. Defense has gone from 22 days of furloughs for everyone to 14, and now to 11. Still a lot, but a big change. And they still have yet to happen.

But while federal agencies have the flexibility to put off or decrease the number of furlough days, many private contractors don't. Or are using the furlough threat as an excuse to downsize.

So, where is this heading? And what happens in October when the new fiscal year begins?

Today at 10 a.m. on our Your Turn radio show, I'll be talking with Francis Rose. He's host of Federal News Radio's afternoon drive show In Depth. He's been watching the sequestration fallout, and has a lot of contacts in the federal and contractor community. We will also be joined by Jim McElhatton, who covers contracting for the Federal Times.

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


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

Storks have been associated with babies going back to ancient Greece — although not always as a friendly harbinger of good news. In Greek mythology, Hera, the queen of the gods, turned her rival Antigone of Troy (not to be confused with the more well-known daughter of Oedipus, also named Antigone) into a stork, who then tried to steal her son away.

(Source: Today I Found Out)


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