Pentagon Readies Furloughs

Senator Lindsey Graham created a stir when he quoted Defense Secretary Leon Panetta as telling him he’d have to send 800,000 “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.”

Not quite right, says Gordon Adams, a White House budget official during the Clinton administration. He criticized Graham’s comments as “hyperbole” over what would actually be some unpaid days off.

“What the secretary probably said was that prudence would lead him to notify Pentagon civil servants that there might be some furloughs if sequester happened,” said Adams, now an American University professor. “If sequester is ‘fixed,’ it might be for none of them. Certainly, none of them are layoffs.”

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, a U.S. defense official said today. 

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.

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