Continued Budgetary Uncertainty on Horizon for Federal Managers

Since sequestration began on March 1, 2013, most federal departments moved funds (or eliminated them altogether) to reduce furlough days, finding other ways to cut costs and comply with the law. The Federal Managers Association (FMA) applauded every agency that was able to reduce or forego furloughs completely. Most recently, we were pleased when Department of Defense (DOD) Secretary Chuck Hagel reduced furloughs to six days from the initial twenty-two for more than 650,000 DOD civilian employees, and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) cancelled planned furlough days in July and August. 

Indeed, most departments and agencies were able to make major adjustments and prevent furloughs in the remainder of Fiscal Year 2013 (FY13). However, FY14 begins in under six weeks, and there are nine legislative days left before the new fiscal year. The sequester is still in effect; there is currently no compromise legislation to remedy these mandatory cuts, and the government is once again on the edge of a budgetary shutdown. 

It is long overdue for Congress to tackle the several paramount issues before them, including its primary responsibility of passing appropriations bills to fund the government, as well as the need to eliminate the eminently poor policy of across-the-board budget cuts. Instead, managers are left wondering when Congress will work together constructively to keep the federal government functioning efficiently and effectively. 

Due to inaction, another continuing resolution appears likely. Relying on a continuing resolution instead of utilizing the appropriations process is unfortunately becoming normal operating procedure. Continuing resolutions force managers to focus on short-term operations rather than on their core missions. And the end result is higher costs and less return on investment in the long run – the exact opposite of what policymakers and the general public want. The sequester effectively compounds the problem.      

Encouraging to FMA, the House of Representatives approved two amendments during consideration of the FY14 Department of Defense Appropriations in July, in an effort to prevent future furloughs of DOD employees. Representative Doug Lamborn (R-CO) sponsored an amendment to prevent furloughs of all DOD civilians in FY14, and Reps. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Tom Cole (R-OK) sponsored an amendment to prohibit DOD from using any FY14 funds to carry out a furlough of employees paid from amounts in a Working Capital Fund account. While FMA supported both of these amendments and celebrated their adoption, the future looks ominous for defense appropriations and regular order. 

If sequestration continues into FY14, DOD faces $52 billion in cuts, and domestic agencies and departments will have to make similar extraordinary cuts. This negatively impacts mission fulfillment, causes delays in services to the American people, and hampers federal workers, their families, and their local communities. DOD faces threats of additional furloughs, reductions in force, early retirements, and decreasing morale. All other agencies will face similar budget cuts, and many agencies that were spared of furloughs in FY13 will be vulnerable once again. 

Managers want to do their part to keep a first-class government operating in FY14 and beyond. That is why urging responsible budgeting and elimination of the blind budget hacking of sequestration remains FMA’s top priority. FMA will not rest until decision makers can agree on a reasonable solution to these critical issues.   

Celebrating its 100th year, the Federal Managers Association (FMA) is proud of its long tradition of Advocating Excellence in Public Service. For more information on how FMA works to protect your interests and to join our team, please visit www.fedmanagers.org.

Posted in Hear it from FMA

Tags: furlough, sequestration, sequester, DOD, Department of Defense, Federal Managers Association

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