Our View: Furloughs may be reduced

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 11:59 AM

Editorial Board

The relatively quick end to Federal Aviation Administration furloughs that stranded and delayed air passengers last week was the result of sequestration-related budget cutting being put in the hands of managers, rather than politicians or others who are not making daily decisions. The de-politicization of sequestration seems to result in the cuts being less of a burden to Americans. The same wisdom has the potential to be applied to furloughs for civilian defense workers at Hill Air Force Base and other bases.

Last week, well more than 100 U.S. representatives, including our local Rep. Rob Bishop, wrote to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, asking the secretary to review the use of furloughs, and other cuts to civilian personnel. The letter writers, including scores from both parties, noted that current plans for furloughs, etc., were announced on Jan. 10, before the Department of Defense actually knew what its funding levels would be. The writers ask that “managers be allowed the discretion to make offsetting cuts to comply with sequestration.”

We agree and are pleased to learn that Secretary Hagel is listening to the representatives’ concerns. While he has not specifically said that planned furloughs will be reduced from the 14-day level, he has asked Congress to approve reprogramming requests from the department that would allow the potential for funds to be shifted from the current fiscal situation.

Frankly, the FAA resolution is an indicator that sequestration cuts can be conducted in a more sensible manner. The key is putting the budget decisions at its most local, personal level, and not at the mercy of administrators who may be more inclined to score political points.

If the Department of Defense is making good-faith efforts to reprogram funds in a manner that can reduce furloughs, then we urge Congress to quickly pass the reprograms. That will allow funds to be shifted.

Hagel has not made a final decision on civilian furloughs for Hill and other bases. Hopefully, a thorough review that prioritizes cuts in order of importance will lead to a further reduction of furlough days.

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