The union representing federal government employees is calling on the Pentagon to stop using furloughs as a “political signal” and eliminate all further unpaid leave for Pentagon civilians.
“Furloughs have too often been used by the Pentagon to send certain political messages about sequestration to Congress rather than to generate the savings required by sequestration,” American Federation of Government Employees President Jeffrey David Cox said in a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Tuesday.
Pentagon officials have reduced the number of planned furlough days from 22 days to 11 days. New reports this week suggest that this figure may now be further reduced to as low as 6 days.
Cox accused the Defense Department of citing the original figure of 22 days to “inspire Congressional opposition,” rather than due to budgetary necessity.
AFGE, which represents almost 250,000 employees in the Department of Defense, also registered its complaint that civilian employees were being furloughed while Pentagon contractors were not.
Due to contractual obligations, the Pentagon is less able to force contractor furloughs.
In his letter, Cox said that the amount of money the Pentagon has claimed to save through furloughs — $2 billion — is small in compared the agency’s annual budget, but on the other hand mandatory leave has a massive effect on employee pocketbooks.
“The impact of indiscriminate, across-the-board furloughs on civilian employees, many of whom live from paycheck-to-paycheck, has been severe,” Cox wrote. “I ask you to take the opportunity… to eliminate [the impact of furloughs] entirely.”