Editor's note: Doug Lundberg recently sat down with All Hands to talk about the impact of the upcoming furloughs on the Navy's civilian workforce.
Q- What is a furlough?
A- Furlough is the placing of employees in a non-pay status. There are two types of furlough. The first type is called an emergency furlough, and that occurs when the government is out of money - typically government shutdown and a lapse of appropriation. And the second type that we're really talking about today is called a planned or administrative furlough, and that has been triggered by sequestration.
Q- When are the furloughs scheduled and when do they start?
A- The furloughs are scheduled to begin the weekend of July 8, and again, for most employees they will be furloughed one day a week for up to eleven weeks. Since this is a planned furlough employees were entitled to 30 days' notice, and we distributed those notices to employees beginning May 28.
Q- Who is going to be furloughed, and who is essential?
A- The majority of the civilian workforce will be furloughed, approximately 78 percent. Therefore there's 22 percent who will not be furloughed. So there are about a dozen categorical exceptions that have been determined either by the Secretary of Defense or the Secretary of the Navy. A couple of major examples would be employees who are necessary for the protection of life and property, such as police and firefighters, medical personnel who are involved in 24-hour patient care or emergency room services, and shipyard workers because of the adverse impact on the maintenance of nuclear vessels.
Q- How do the furloughs affect federal employee health benefits?
A- For most employees there will be no impact on their federal health benefits. There are a couple of exceptions that may affect a very small number of employees. If, for example, an employee does not receive enough money in their paycheck to cover their premiums, then we would notify those employees and they would have to make alternative arrangements in order to pay their health insurance premiums. The other possible exception is if an employee has been in a non-pay status for other reasons for a long period of time. So if they were on leave without pay for an extended period of time it may impact their eligibility. In both those situations we're talking about a very small number of employees.
Q- Are civilian employees still accruing leave during furlough days?
A- Yes, employees still accrue leave while they're furloughed. However, once they have accumulated 80 hours in a non-pay status then they would not accrue leave for the one pay period in which they reached that 80 hours in a non-pay status.
Q- How will the furloughs impact commands and their mission?
A- There's no question that furloughs will have an adverse impact on operational tempo, and it is very important for leadership to identify priorities for the work force. The furlough represents a 20-percent reduction in productivity for the duration of the furlough, so employees have to focus on the critical 80 percent of their jobs in order to have minimum impact on operations and readiness.
Q- Where can civilians go to get more information about the furlough?
A- We have posted all the information we have available about furloughs on the Department of the Navy's HR website which is www.donhr.navy.mil
. They can also go to their local HR offices and get information.
Q- Anything else you would like to add?
A- I'd like to mention that the Department of the Navy's civilian workforce is an incredibly talented workforce. Over 50 percent of the workforce is comprised of engineers, scientists, logisticians and acquisition specialists. I also would like to mention that we have about 35,000 of the most highly skilled, blue-collar artisans in the world. These are the folks working at our shipyards and our depots who maintain our ships and planes. It's important to note that 57 percent of our workforce is comprised of veterans. It's also noteworthy that we have over 4,500 PhDs in the Department of the Navy. And I finally would want to mention that the Department of the Navy ranks first in the world among government agencies in new patents. So we're talking about a truly world-class workforce.