Unless Congress achieves a deal to head off the revised schedule for across-the-board spending cuts, the Defense Department in March will be forced to begin rotating monthly furloughs of all 791,000 of its civilian employees, a prominent budget analyst said on Wednesday.
“This would be a contracting nightmare for DoD because civilian contracting officers would be furloughed for a month,” Todd Harrison, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, told reporters.
Using “back of the envelope” calculations interpreting the new American Taxpayer Relief Act, he said the roughly 8.8 percent cut that would kick in under the sequestration penalties would have “a real impact” on the $70 billion a year spent on the civilian workforce — the equivalent of a 15 percent cut over the remaining seven months of the fiscal year.
“There’s no way to avoid it unless Congress changes the law,” Harrison said in releasing a new paper on the impact of the so-called fiscal cliff that projects revised cuts aimed at the Pentagon of about $48 billion in fiscal 2013. “Not all the furloughs would happen at the same time,” he said, but planners should decide soon who would be furloughed in what month and make it public “to help inform public debate so we could make a good decision as a nation on what we are going to do.”