At his testimony in front of the Senate Appropriations Committee on February 14, Deputy Secretary of Defense Carter detailed what DoD civilian employee furloughs would entail:
"All the Services and Agencies are likely to have to furlough most DoD civilian employees for an average of one day per week for up to 22 weeks.[...] During this period, furloughs will result in a 20% cut in pay for civilians who support our national defense – which will affect their morale." Carter — as a Senate-confirmed employee — cannot be furloughed under the law. He has, however, announced this immensely classy move to the Senate Appropriations Committee:
"If our employees are furloughed, I intend to give back to the Treasury the same portion of my salary, and I encourage all of us – Executive Branch and Legislative Branch – to do the same."
If sequestration happens, federal workers from many Departments will be furloughed -- with the workers at the Department of Defense hardest hit. Whether you agree with the sequester or not, it is only logical that the President and members of Congress join these federal workers in sharing the burden. Federal workers, regardless of their pay grade, are being asked to give up 1/5th of their salary for several weeks in order to assist their nation -- but the members of Congress who voted for these pay cuts are not giving up any portion of their annual $174,000 salary. Many members of Congress are willing to give up at least a portion of their pay -- but others resist. Representative Pelosi, for example, explained her hesitation by stating that, "Most of [her] colleagues are the breadwinners in their families..." and the pay cut would be too difficult for them. Well, many of the federal workers being asked to give up their pay are also the breadwinners in their families -- and their salaries are significantly less than $174,000 a year.
Some have pointed out that there are legal prohibitions that prevent altering the pay of these officials. That is true. What this petition requests, however, is not a permanent pay change. We only request that Congress and the President do the same thing that Deputy Secretary Carter is doing -- individually and directly return the same percentage of pay as what is being required of civilian DoD workers to the Treasury
Our elected officials seem to find enough time to go on vacations, appear on 24 hour news networks, and blame one another for the problems our country faces. They do not, however, seem to have the time or the will to find common ground for the good of the nation. Perhaps a pay cut equivalent to what they are asking others would help remind them that good leaders do not ask others to do things that they would not do themselves. This is not a partisan issue, it is an issue of leadership and accountability.
The likely number of furlough days for DoD civilian workers -- those most impacted by the furloughs -- has been decreased from 22 to 14 for the fiscal year. This is obviously a positive step. It is, however, also still 3.5 months during which these dedicated public servants will be asked to have their salaries reduced by 20% (regardless of their pay grade).
President Obama has pledged to follow in the footsteps of Deputy Defense Secretary Carter and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to voluntarily return the same percentage of his salary as DoD civilians will lose during furloughs. He has, therefore, had his name removed from this petition.