‘I am furloughing in place’

The USS George H.W. Bush
The USS George H.W. Bush

The effects of the truly stupid sequestration policy on the Pentagon are already apparent: 680,000 Pentagon employees have received furlough notices and are taking a steep pay cut over the summer, all because of a policy that was designed to hurt the country on purpose, which Congress won’t turn off.

In an eight-page letter issued yesterday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel reminded lawmakers that if these unnecessary spending cuts are not lifted by October, this will get considerably worse, and the effectiveness of jet fighter wings, ground combat units, and even Special Operations forces would plummet.

How absurd are the effects of this policy on the military? Politico had an item from onboard the USS George H.W. Bush.

Sequestration was definitely on a lot of minds aboard the USS Bush as it was underway yesterday, Ewing reports. Crewmembers grumbled that they have little certainty about when their ship will next deploy. And X-47B team members aboard the carrier acknowledged they were dealing with furloughs even as their baby was set to make its first arrested landing.

Deputy program manager Don Blottenberger said over lunch in the wardroom that some of his team members had gotten permission to postpone their furloughs until after this week’s test. As for Blottenberger, however, he said he had no choice but to bank some hours even at sea aboard the carrier – “I am furloughing in place,” he said.

“I am furloughing in place” is one of those lines that really helps capture the absurdity of the situation. When a public employee is furloughed, he or she is supposed to go home without pay – not because of poor on-the-job performance, but because of budgetary issues.

But when you’re on an aircraft carrier, you can’t just hop in the car and head home – you’re left to “furlough in place.”

Note, Congress could turn the sequester off, helping these military personnel, the economy, children in Head Start centers, the federal courts, and even efforts to combat wildfires. But so far, Republican lawmakers have refused to even consider stopping the policy or finding a compromise to replace it.