Once upon a Furlough …

Chuck Hagel

DoD Secretary Nagel, it’s “fair” to furlough Navy employees, despite the assertion that cuts can be absorbed without furloughs.

Well, it finally happened, after 33 years of Federal employment … My first Adverse Action.  A furlough, long speculated upon and hanging out there like a piece of space rock that you know is screaming – maybe more like meandering – towards you; yet you’re not quite sure if or when it might hit, or how big the mess if it does.

So it appears to be hitting, regardless of my own personal opinion (denial?) that there was no way they would allow said space junk to impact.

The story gets much uglier the further you peel the onion.

My first attempt at writing this, the day after we received our Notice of Proposed Furlough, came off like an angry rant … which it surely was.  It went in part like this:

I’m mad at all the bozos in Washington, D.C.!  All of those who would rather drive their ideological stakes into the ground and tether to those constraints the Government’s ability to function, the Country’s long-term economic health, and the tenuous condition of the Middle Class rather than dealing with the realities of the National Budget!

That goes for the Democrats as much as the Republicans, the Conservatives as much as the Liberals.  Governance requires Adults.  Unfortunately few can be found among those currently taking up space in the building they call The Capitol.  A building which frankly should have a sign draped across the front, advertising it as “The World’s Largest Day Care”!

bg-1-136694

But the biggest chunk of anger I feel is towards The White House …

That last part won’t surprise anyone who has visited here before, as I reserve a  particular animosity for those who created such an unpredictable sequestration gamble with the livelihoods of working class Americans!

But yes, I feel a little better today, thank you.  Still more than a little pissed however.

The reason is summarized somewhat by today’s title, “Once upon a Furlough …”, a twist on a phrase used by story-tellers since at least the year 1380 according to the Oxford English Dictionary.  Afterall, sequestration with all its head-scratching “cost savers” – among them the furlough of federal employees – is great big Fairy Tale.  And the story has its origins in The Oval Office during the 2011 debt-ceiling negotiations.

Sequestration Fairy

Sequestration Savings Fairy

At that time The White House was working with the Democrat’s Congressional delegation, trying to figure a way to wheedle agreement from the Republican side of The House to raise the federal debt limit.  It was then Chief-of-Staff Jack Lew (now Treasury Secretary) and White House Congressional liaison Rob Nabors who “brain stormed” The Great Sequestration Gamble of 2013.

The idea being that the sequestration would be such a painful penalty for not agreeing to a future “grand bargain” on the budget and deficit, and more importantly on what – if any – cuts could be made to said budget, and who and how much more in taxes would be paid.  This “pain” of course was aimed squarely at the Republicans, a bet on the prospects that the politics of the situation would force the Republican’s hand at a crucial moment.

Like much of what this Adminstration does, it was a poorly developed gamble that was just as shoddily executed, minus any form of Presidential Leadership, and with no fall back position other than to blame the whole mess on the Republicans in Congress.

Problem is the ploy required building sufficient political pressure to force Republicans to seek a deal.  But the Republicans dug in; refused to yield on earlier commitments to taxpayers; and held the Democrats and The White House to their promise of suitable budget cuts without more in tax revenue than Congress accepted to avoid the other contrived 2013 budget trigger – the New Year’s fiscal cliff .

Leadership???

Leadership???

The Democrats’ problem – and a continuing theme – became the need for strong Leadership from The White House.

As Scoobie Doo was so fond of saying … “Ruh Roh!”

Of course no Leadership emerged … only insistence that more tax revenue was the solution and a lot of political rallies disguised as “taking the argument to the people”.

“Ruh roh …”

Sequestration Dragon

Sequestration Dragon

And when the time came for the put-up-or-shut-up necessary to cut the heart out of the Sequestration Dragon, The White House decided to double down and really force the issue.  Though it would not be through strong leadership, circumspect vision, and the art of compromise in seeking a deal on spending and taxing.

No, no, no … Instead came the none-too-subtle message to the Republican caucus in the House of Representatives, Refuse to surrender, and the Country will suffer!

“Ruh roh …”

That’s how we ended up with the silly cancellation of White House tours, hand-wringing over Easter egg hunts, contrived air travel delays, and accusations that every unfortunate event from a bridge collapse to the bombings in Boston were the result of the sequestration.

pennyHowever, as I outlined earlier this year, the actual affect of sequestration on the 2013 fiscal budget was just 1% of everything the federal government will spend in Fiscal Year 2013.

A penny on every dollar!

And yet, here we are.

For federal employees of the U.S. Navy, the sequester furloughs are particularly infuriating because they are completely unnecessary!  Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus and other senior Navy executive leaders have made it known that the U.S. Navy could comfortably absorb the sequestration-driven budget cuts without a single civilian furlough.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus

The response from White House Cabinet DoD Secretary Chuck Hagel?  Yet another absence of Leadership … Insisting that the Navy furlough it’s civilian workforce in order to “be fair” to those who work for the Army and Air Force.

What?!?

Yep, that’s right  … Fairness now is the real reason for the furloughs of Navy employees as opposed to “the extraordinary and serious budget challenges facing the Department of Defense” as my deliberately misleading furlough notice states.

DoD has every indication that the Navy can absorb its share of the shared pain from this silly sequestration without affecting the incomes of its civilian employees; yet they insist the Navy reduce their employees annual earnings by 20% in order to “be fair” to those working for the Army and Air Force!

Welcome to Fairy Tale Land!

So what’s a Federal Employee to do?!?  Make them pay more of course!

imagesOne of the protections, federal employees enjoy is that of the Merit System Protection Board.  The MSPB is expecting a potential tsunami of appeals over the furloughs being forced on federal employees.  Since an appeal to the MSPB can cost the Government up to $10,000 (See “Cost of Appeals”), the Federal Government desperate for a way to stay within budget and sacrificing its employees, ends up potentially paying twice as much as it expects to save for each employee who decides to file an MSPB appeal.

For this reason every Federal Employee should consider filing an appeal regardless of how dim the prospects are for vindication!  For Navy employees in particular, Chuck Hagel has laid a very nice gift at your feet.

You can view instructions and a link to the appeal process here.  MSPB even has an e-file application to ease the confusion.  Furloughed employees have 30 days from the date-of-notice or from the first day-of-furlough, whichever is later, to file their MSPB appeals.

There … now I feel much better!

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