DOE considers furloughs as part of sequestration plan

The Energy Department (DOE) is considering furloughing employees to reduce costs if automatic spending cuts from sequestration occur, according to an internal memo obtained by The Hill.

“With respect to furloughs, should we have to pursue this unfortunate course of action, let me assure you that all affected employees would be provided at least 30 days’ notice prior to executing a furlough. We will also continue to engage in discussions with employee unions as appropriate, to ensure that any furloughs are applied in a fair and appropriate manner,” Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman said in a Thursday email to staff.


The email underscores the uncertainty federal agencies face with $85 billion of cuts scheduled to take effect March 1. The cuts would slash discretionary spending government-wide by 8.2 percent.

Lawmakers are working on a package of cuts to offset the sequester, but have so far failed to produce a plan. President Obama on Tuesday urged Congress to delay the sequester if it cannot strike a long-term deal.

Republicans have balked at raising taxes as part of a pact to replace the sequester, preferring instead to rely on spending reductions. Obama and Democrats, meanwhile, believe a mix of cuts and tax code changes is the best path.

Bloomberg BNA was the first to report on the memo, which outlined a series of cost-cutting measures the department could pursue.

Other options included reexamining contracts and grants, slashing administrative costs such as travel, training and facilities, and possibly “making cuts to vital programs.”

Poneman said DOE must prepare for the possibility that Congress misses the March deadline.

“[G]iven that less than one month remains until these cuts would take effect and given that the delay enacted by Congress would give us less time in which to make the required cuts, our senior leadership team is engaged in extensive planning efforts to determine how we would deal with sequestration,” he said in the email.