WASHINGTON The Defense Department is preparing to notify its 800,000 civilian employees that some of them may have to take unpaid leave next year if lawmakers can’t agree on a budget deal, according to a U.S. defense official.
While the notification would go out to all the Pentagon’s civilian workers, only a portion of them would be likely to face eventual furloughs under the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration, said the official, who asked not to be identified discussing personnel plans.
More than $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts are set to start taking effect this week unless lawmakers can agree on an alternate deficit-reduction plan. The potential effect on civilian defense workers gained attention Sunday, when Sen. Lindsey Graham said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told him he’d have to send out “layoff notices” that would amount to “shooting the Defense Department in the head.”
Panetta “is worried to death that if we don’t fix the sequestration, we’re going to destroy the finest military in the world, at a time we need it the most,” Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, said on Fox News Sunday.
Gordon Adams, a professor at American University in Washington who was an official in the White House budget office during the Clinton administration, criticized Graham’s comments as “hyperbole” over what would actually be some unpaid days off.