Union to Pentagon: Stop Throwing Us Crumbs

Photograph by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

A protester during a demonstration by federal employees outside the Department of Labor, with the Capitol in the background, in Washington, D.C., on March 20, 2013.

The head of a union representing government workers is upset that the Pentagon is planning to furlough employees for 14 days while continuing to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on contracts with private firms.

The unpaid leave for the Defense Department’s 700,000 civilian workers is less than the 22 days originally planned under the automatic budget cuts that began this month.

But that’s not placating the American Federation of Government Employees, which notes the furloughs will save about $2.5 billion — small change next to the $300 billion the department plans to spend on contracts this year. The union cited data compiled by Bloomberg that showed the Pentagon had awarded contracts valued at as much as $39.4 billion in March, a 71 percent increase from February.

“[Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel] seems to believe that we should be happy with the crumbs he has thrown our way,”  J. David Cox Sr., the union’s national president, said today in a statement. ”Meanwhile, he’s invited contractors back to the table to resume their feast.

“It defies belief that Congress and the administration are unable to secure for the department the additional flexibility under sequestration necessary to squeeze less than one percent in savings from its contracts, in order to avoid arbitrarily cutting salaries for its own workers,” he added.

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