DOD: Civilian workers could get layoff notices

Frederick Vollrath, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for readiness, told the House Armed Services Committee that the Pentagon would have to send out the layoff notices to Congress in mid-September under federal reporting requirements, and then to the employees 60 days layoffs would occur, which would be right before the election.

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Armed Services Readiness subcommittee Chairman Randy Forbes (R-Va.) said at the hearing that that anywhere from 89,000 to as many as 200,000 civilian workers could be cut under sequestration.

An aide to Forbes said the date would be Jan. 4, not Jan. 2, because DOD has a hold on layoffs from Dec. 15 to Jan. 2.

Forbes questioned whether civilian employees would be laid off under sequestration, however, because the Pentagon said it’s not yet begun planning for the cuts, which would be $55 billion in fiscal year 2013.

Forbes pressed Vollrath about whether he had been given any instructions to start planning and whether it was likely that significant planning for sequester would occur without his knowledge. Vollarth said it was not likely.

Vollrath told Forbes that it would take three to four months for sufficient preparation of a reduction in the civilian workforce.

Forbes hit the Pentagon for not planning yet when sequestration is five months away, and suggested that the sequestration cuts wind up having to come from other areas in operations and management instead of the civilian workforce as a result.

Congress passed legislation this week that would require the Obama administration to explain how the sequestration cuts would take effect. Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and acting Office of Management and Budget Director Jeffrey Zients are testifying before the House Armed Services Committee next week about implementing sequester.

Pentagon spokesman George Little said that Vollrath's comments "did not indicate that we are planning to for sequestration."

"While it is likely that sequestration would force us at some point to make reductions in the civilian workforce, we have not made any decisions regarding the timing or size of those reductions," Little said in a statement. "The Secretary has been crystal-clear that his focus is on preventing sequester, not planning for it."

— This story was updated at 7:20 p.m.