Don’t buy a baloney sandwich

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

In this time of fiscal uncertainty it seems to me that the federal civilian workforce is being demonized as a too-highly paid, unnecessarily large work force, and is seen by many as a convenient cost containment target whose pay has been frozen by Congress for the last several years and who now face furlough for up to 14 days.

That was a long sentence that can be responded to with one word – baloney!

The federal workforce is made up of dedicated civil servants who have demonstrated their loyalty to this nation over and over.

My experience – over 35 years of active duty – was with Department of Defense civilians, and I can say without reservation that without their service the Army could not function.

DoD civilians work alongside soldiers preparing for war or training during peace time.

They staff the depots that repair equipment and fill myriad posts that cannot be manned by a diminishing active duty military force.

Yet the members of the federal civilian work force "soldier" on –without pay raises and with the enormous uncertainty that the potential furlough action brings to their already frozen pay checks.

In addition to the immediate financial impact on the civilian work force, the possible furlough action has impact on military readiness, on medical care (many physicians in military hospitals are civilians), on lost spending when exchanges and commissaries are closed which then impacts the vendors who sell less to military customers and cut their work forces because of reduced demand.

The ripple effect spreads far and wide.

So I have two messages here.

Our federal civilian work force is not the enemy – it must be seen as the force multiplier that it is, not a source for reducing federal expenditures.

Also, while the recently announced two-week delay in furlough implementation is welcome news, AUSA urges the Department of Defense to carefully consider the myriad effects of such action on a talented and dedicated group of people as well as the nation writ large before it moves forward.