DoD Civilian Sequestration Furlough Days Reduced, Just in Time for “Busy Season”

Published: August 07, 2013

USAFARMYDEFENSEDISANAVYPolicy and LegislationSequestration

In a market where lately there has been plenty of uncertainty and sometimes downright gloom, it’s nice to get some unabashed good news. This week we learned that DoD has found a way to reduce the number of days that their civilian employees will be furloughed due to budget sequestration. For those acquisition offices that were impacted by furloughs, this means they will be at full staff when they need it most – the end of the fiscal year, a.k.a. “federal busy season.”

When budget sequestration kicked in back at the end of February one of the most problematic issues with implementing the spending reductions was determining how much of these would come through the furlough of civilian federal employees – specifically, how many days would they be furloughed to achieve the needed reductions. The original estimate was 22 days, but as the dust settled the planned number was set at 11 days.
As it turns out, that is not to be the final number. Last week, the Associated Press reported that the 11 days would be reduced by 5 days. So after months of sorting out just how to implement sequestration-related furloughs, they began in early July. And just about a month later, we’re learning that the end is already in sight. In fact, Defense Secretary Hagel announced this week that the last furlough day for FY 2013 is expected to take place on August 17.
Implications – A Smoother-than-Anticipated “Busy Season”
In last week’s entry I looked at what recent historical spending level data for could possibly mean for September, the busiest single month of the fiscal year. Over the last five fiscal years the four major Defense branches have averaged a combined $18 billion in IT contract obligations in the fourth fiscal quarter, $11 billion of which came in September alone.
These contracts don’t get awarded without significant effort and support from civilian acquisition staff, so the impact of furloughs was a great concern for agencies trying to empty their backlog before the budget authority expires at year-end. The announced end of these furloughs means that any acquisition support staff that had been impacted by furloughs will be at full time and available to support the normal end-of-fiscal year spending push that typifies the majority of federal agencies.
Granted, in his announcement Hegel attributes these reduced furloughs to Congress’ approval of the Pentagon’s plans to move funds from acquisition accounts into day-to-day operating accounts. That could definitely impact what gets spent on IT, especially on commodities. We could see a September that bucks historical spending trends, but at least we have the hope that whatever is approved to move forward won’t get caught in a processing chokepoint exacerbated by sequestration-induced short staffing. That is good news.