House lawmakers: Pentagon furlough plans ‘misguided’

“Requiring unnecessary civilian furloughs is bad policy and has the appearance of an attempt to impose pain for political gain,” they wrote in the letter obtained by The Hill.

Nineteen Republicans and eight Democrats signed the letter.

Hagel announced Tuesday that 680,000 of the Defense Department’s 800,000 civilian employees would face up to 11 furlough days through the end of the fiscal year in September. Previously the Pentagon had said it might need to furlough civilians 22 and 14 days this year.

Navy leaders had argued that the Navy and Marine Corps could make the necessary budget cuts under sequestration elsewhere and avoid furloughing its civilians.

The Navy did receive some exemptions, including civilians who work in shipyards.

“We did that for mission reasons,” a senior defense official told reporters Tuesday. “It's a very long planning process. And there’s a very long period for maintenance, very little ability to catch up and we're dealing with submarines and carriers, which are small in number but high in value.”

Roughly 120,000 Pentagon civilians are exempted from the furloughs in total, including those who work in combat zones and foreign nationals who are overseas.

Announcing the furloughs, Hagel said that it was important to him that they be implemented fairly for everyone.

“No one service, no one's going to be protected more than anybody else,” Hagel said.

The defense official said that if the Navy had the funds to avoid furloughs, the savings they achieve could then be moved into other services that are facing more budgetary problems.

The lawmakers told Hagel they disagreed.

“We believe this policy of mandatory civilian furloughs in every single department and agency is deeply misguided and urge you to change course,” they said.