DoD to managers: Don't use military, contractors to offset civilian furloughs

Monday - 7/1/2013, 5:53pm EDT

New guidance from the Pentagon admonishes Defense managers not to attempt to blunt the impact of impending civilian furloughs by shifting their workload onto military members or to contractor employees.

Likewise, under the terms of the memo, signed Friday by Frederick Vollrath, DoD's assistant secretary for readiness and force management, managers are barred from requiring civilians to work longer hours on their regular work days in order to make up for the work they'll miss while they're furloughed.

"Nor shall employees in pay status perform work beyond their regularly scheduled hours to compensate for the workload/productivity loss of those who are in furlough status," Vollrath wrote.

Beginning July 8, roughly 680,000 DoD civilians will begin mandatory, one-day-per-week unpaid furloughs — one of several steps the department says it's being forced to take to offset the steep, across-the-board budget cuts under sequestration in 2013. Most civilians will be furloughed for a total of 11 work days between next week and the end of the fiscal year, saving DoD an estimated $1.8 billion.

The memo tells military commanders and DoD managers that they're expected to manage their workloads, but that they "must ensure that borrowed military manpower is not used to compensate for work resulting from a civilian furlough. To do so would be inconsistent with [Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's] intent and the department's commitment to protect the viability of the all-volunteer force."

Vollrath's directive also reinforces federal laws which prohibit DoD from "converting" work that has been performed by federal civilian servants to contractor employees during the furloughs. The department is generally barred from outsourcing civilian work to contractors unless it first conducts a cost-benefit analysis.

However, the American Federation of Government Employees, DoD's largest federal workers union, alleged Monday that it's seen evidence of direct conversions already taking place. In a statement, union president J. David Cox said he had asked Vollrath to investigate the "illegal privatization" of the core workload at Anniston Army Depot in Alabama.

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