The Budget Control Act of 2011 requires automatic, across-the-board cuts of more than $1 trillion over the next decade if Congress and the White House do not reach a budget deal. The Pentagon would account for about $500 billion of the 10-year reduction, with $46 billion to be cut from defense spending by Sept. 30.
The American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal employee union, issued a statement criticizing the cuts.
“These are tremendous economic hits for all of our members. An employee in the middle of the pay scale, earning about $50,000 a year, takes home between $500 and $600 a week after subtracting health insurance, retirement and taxes. Taking away one day’s pay every week could mean the difference between covering the mortgage and putting food on the table,” said J. David Cox Sr., AFGE’s national president.
“These employees aren’t some fat cat bureaucrats in a plush Washington office,” Mr. Cox said. “They are the firefighters who safeguard our bases, the health care professionals who treat injured soldiers in military hospitals, the mechanics who repair our tanks and planes, the logistics personnel who ensure supplies make it to our troops, the acquisition experts who prevent big defense contractors from ripping off taxpayers.”
The Pentagon’s spending reduction also has affected the private contractors who provide goods and services to the military.
On Wednesday, BAE Systems Inc. issued a layoff notice to about 3,500 of its staff in Virginia, Florida, California and Hawaii under the Warn Act.
“I feel great sympathy for the 1,600 shipyard workers and their families receiving Warn notices today,” said Sen. Tim Kaine, Virginia Democrat and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“As the Pentagon notifies … civilians about potential furloughs, I’m still not willing to accept that the sequester has to happen,” Mr. Kaine said. “All that’s required is a willingness for leaders of both parties to take responsibility for this self-inflicted crisis and find a reasonable compromise.”
Pentagon officials said that about 50,000 civilian workers would be exempt from the furloughs, mostly foreign nationals who are stationed overseas but work on U.S. bases and in some cases paid by their governments or hired under bilateral agreements. Senate-confirmed political appointees are exempt from furloughs by law.
Some, but not all, “mission-critical” employees — those responsible for protecting life and property — may be exempted.
“If there are 20 policemen on a base … they’re not all automatically exempted from furloughs — only to the extent that commanders and managers determine they have to exempt some or all of them in order to maintain a safety in life and property,” Pentagon Comptroller Robert F. Hale told reporters.
• This article is based in part on wire service reports.
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
Kristina Wong is a national security reporter for The Washington Times, covering defense, foreign policy and intelligence affairs. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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