When sequestration was about to kick in, President Obama and his allies predicted many woes would come to the federal government and the American people. It looks like one area of forecasted harm, major furloughs in the federal bureaucracy, is far less ruinous than advertised:
When sequestration was about to kick in, the Obama administration began a nearly across-the-board campaign to discuss the devastating impact the automatic cuts would have on agency operations.
At the center of these warnings stood employee furloughs: mandatory unpaid leave to help each department meet the lower budget caps that took effect March 1. Furloughs, combined with hiring freezes, would disrupt the proper functioning of government, agency chiefs said, as fewer employees working fewer hours could not accomplish the same amount as a fully staffed workforce.
While many federal agencies have in fact moved forward with furloughs, and there remain countless examples of sequestration interfering with government operations, most major departments have reduced furlough days, or eliminated them altogether.
Government Executive cites many departments that were given flexibility in how sequestration was implemented. They and other departments found other ways to meet sequestration’s requirements without major furloughs, including:
• The Departments of Education and Justice “backtrack[ed]” on claims they would have to furlough employees.
• Agriculture, and Transportation, and Homeland Security Departments “all received authority to transfer funds between agency accounts, and were therefore able to cancel planned furloughs.”
• The Department of Commerce cancelled its expected furloughs in May to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
• The Department of Defense went from furloughing 750,000 employees for 22 days to six days of leave for 650,000 civilian employees.
• Treasury said it would have to furlough all of its IRS employees for five days, but cut that number back to three.
• Housing and Urban Development “canceled two furlough days,” and in May, “the Environmental Protection Agency cut furloughs by three days.”
• The Interior Departments expectations of woe for U.S. Park Police disappeared after less than half of expected furlough days had been taken.
• The Labor Department has reduced furlough hours in “several of Labor’s sub-agencies.”
Ignoring that several of these Departments should probably be eliminated – a discussion for another day – this is good news for fiscal conservatives. For all the impending doom predicted by the President, sequestration has slowed the growth in government spending without having a significant impact on most federal employees. In politics, appearance counts, and sequestration’s minimal impact on federal employees is showing the American people that a few nicks in federal spending won’t cripple the country like many in the Beltway predicted.
Despite the success of sequestration, the President opposes sequestration in 2014. Tea Party activists have two major goals ahead of us for the 2014 budget: First, delay Obamacare by funding the rest of the government. Second, make sure Congress sticks to sequestration.