Message to All Department of Defense Personnel from Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel
After extensive review of all options with the DoD's senior military and civilian leadership on how we address this budget crisis, today I am announcing that I have decided to direct furloughs of up to 11 days for most of the department's civilian personnel. I have made this decision very reluctantly, because I know that the furloughs will disrupt lives and impact DoD operations. I recognize the significant hardship this places on you and your families.
Potential Impact of Sequestration on DoDEA
In the coming days and weeks, all DoD entities including DoDEA will confront significant uncertainty regarding the amount of budgetary resources available for the remainder of the fiscal year as well as the potential for furloughs of civilian employees. This website will help DoDEA stakeholders stay informed about planning efforts to address this critical situation.
The Defense Education Activity (DODEA) is thoughtfully developing its plan to minimize the impact civilian furloughs may have on students, parents and faculty. Throughout this process, our goal is to preserve the accreditation of our schools and ensure a quality education for all our children. "We understand the anxiety these uncertainties bring to our school communities. While there will be impacts to our students, parents and faculty if furloughs are implemented, the principle guiding DODEA's planning efforts is to lessen the impacts of sequestration wherever we can."
Primary Source of Budget Uncertainties:
Sequestration refers to the mandatory reduction in federal budgetary resources of all budget accounts that have not been exempted by statute. Under the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985, as amended by the Budget Control Act of 2011 and the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, across-the-board reductions took place March 1, 2013. This creates significant uncertainties for managing our operations due to the short time frame in which to execute any reductions or furloughs.
DoDEA Demographics and Stakeholders Affected
Potential Impact on DoDEA
- There will be a significant impact on DoDEA operations due to budget reductions.
- We are unclear at this time how a furlough would affect DoDEA.
- DoD has directed DoDEA to prepare for reduced spending with careful and thoughtful decisions.
- The Department intends to implement sequestration in a manner that preserves the ability to provide students a full school year of academic credit, including completion of final exams, and to maintain school accreditation standards.
- Our first priority is to mitigate the negative impacts that sequestration will have on our ability to provide quality educational services. No decisions have been made at this point. DoD leaders are continuing deliberations and planning.
Immediate steps we are taking to slow down spending
- Ceased all non-mission critical travel.
- Suspended the Department of Defense Dependents Schools (DoDDS) Transfer Program for School Year 2013-2014, except as may be necessary to place excess employees. We will make every effort to place excess educators, as we do every year.
- Suspended the Administrator Rotation Program for School Year 2013-2014. All efforts will be made to ensure all excess employees are placed.
- Ceased all training and conferences, unless they are mission-essential.
- Spring sports are fully funded and will proceed subject to any changes driven by potential furloughs.
- All DoD entities are now developing plans outlining how we might handle a budget shortfall in FY 13 because of CR and potential sequestration budget uncertainties.
- DoDEA has submitted a plan to DoD for approval. We expect a decision by 15 March.
- It is important to note that planning does not assume that any of these unfortunate events will occur, only that we must be ready.
- There are limited areas in our budget from which to generate any savings in the last six months of a budget cycle. Nonetheless, we have to be prepared to accomplish our mission to the best of our ability given the constraints that may affect our school system.
- We must operate in a strict culture of savings now.
- In all of our planning, we will offer steps that are reversible in the event that a budget resolution is reached in Congress.
- We understand the anxiety these uncertainties bring to our school communities. DoDEA is reviewing all areas of its budget for potential savings. We will keep our employees, parents, and communities informed at each and every step along the way
- Summer school will be conducted as planned this summer
List of Supporting Documentation (Materials Relied Upon)
Questions and Answers on Furloughs for DoDEA Employees
Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB) coverage will continue if the employee’s salary is sufficient to pay the premiums. If the employee’s salary becomes insufficient to pay FEHB premiums due to the furlough, the leave without pay/insufficient pay rules apply. If the employee chooses to remain covered, the enrollee share of the FEHB premium will accumulate and be withheld from pay upon the employee’s pay becoming sufficient to cover the premiums.
Federal Employee Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) coverage continues while in a nonpay status due to furlough for up to 12 months, without cost to the employee or agency. Neither the employee nor the agency incurs a debt during this period of furlough. However, if the furlough is for only part of a pay period FEGLI premiums are required. If there is any pay in a pay period, FEGLI premiums for the whole pay period will be deducted from pay. The premiums are not prorated. If the employee’s salary becomes insufficient to pay FEGLI premiums due to the furlough, the leave without pay/insufficient pay rules will also apply.
No. LQA is determined by the State Department and is based on the location where an employee is assigned and the employee’s family size. DoDEA employees will continue to receive their current LQA, subject only to changes in the LQA amounts made by the State Department.
Post allowance is paid based on a formula set by the State Department, and considers annual salary, location, post allowance rate, and family size. During a discontinuous furlough, employees will not have a personnel action that changes their annual salary, so post allowance will continue to be paid at the same rate. Employees should be reminded, however, that the post allowance rate is subject to change from pay period to pay period.
Post Differential is paid as a percentage of an employee’s pay each pay period. When an employee’s salary is reduced due to furlough days in a pay period, the gross salary for that pay period will also be reduced, and therefore, lower the Post Differential amount paid to the employee.
Will employees who currently receive Temporary Quarters Subsistence Allowance (TQSA) continue to receive TQSA payments on furlough days?
Yes. TQSA is a daily rate paid while employees are living in temporary quarters. Provided the employee does not exceed the maximum time in TQSA status, the employee will still receive TQSA payments for each day, even if some of those days are in furlough status.
If furloughs occur at the end of the school year and continue through the next school year, does this mean those entitled to Renewal Agreement Travel (RAT) would not get it?
Generally, days in a non-pay status, such as a furlough days, are credited toward meeting the duty days required to be eligible for RAT. If furlough is imposed, there may be case by case impacts depending on individual circumstances. Once we know the furlough decision we will address this in more detail.
If an employee is furloughed, must the lost days be made up prior to retirement? For example, if an employee needs to work for five years to be vested but was furloughed during those five years, are they still vested at the conclusion of year five or must they work additional days equivalent to the furloughed days prior to being vested?
Generally, an employee’s service computation date is unaffected until the employee exceeds 6 months in a non-pay status in one calendar year. After 6 months in nonpay status in a calendar year, the service computation date is extended by the period in excess of 6 months.
Unless an employee is furloughed for more than 6 months in a calendar year or have a combination of nonpay, nonduty and/or furlough days that totals 6 months in a calendar year, the entire calendar year will be creditable toward retirement for vesting purposes. For additional information, see the OPM Guidance for Administrative Furloughs and OPM’s fact sheet on the “Effect of Extended Leave Without Pay (or Other Nonpay Status) on Federal Benefits and Programs”.
If we are furloughed at the end of the school year, and we cannot officially work again until called back from furlough. Does this imply that we are unemployed for the entire summer recess period plus the furlough days, and therefore eligible for unemployment benefits?
Overseas employees are not eligible to file for Unemployment Compensation (UC) benefits unless they return to the United States (U.S.). Their UC claim would then be based on their state of residence. Because unemployment compensation eligibility rules vary by state, we cannot determine who would be eligible. Links for state by state information regarding UC may be found on the linked document.
Yes, you are still covered under SOFA. Department of Defense employees are still employees during the time they are furloughed; they are just in a non-duty, non-pay status.
What if an employee goes out on sick leave prior to furlough, would they actually be placed in furlough status during their sick leave?
During an administrative furlough, an employee may not substitute paid leave or other forms of paid time off for any hours or days designated as furlough time off. On those days of designated furlough, sick leave would not be able to be used.
Will we have access to government issued laptops, CAC readers, etc. if we are prohibited from working from home and accessing work websites and visiting work premises during furlough days?
While on furlough status, employees may not engage in any work related activities. Employees may use their CAC reader at home for a limited amount of personal use; however, use of government equipment is very specific. Access to the DoDEA public website for informational purposes does not require a CAC card.
If we're not allowed to work from home while being furloughed, how can we legally access DoDEA internet sites?
During the time you are in a furlough status, a DoDEA employee cannot do any work related to their job. DoDEA employees can access the DoDEA public website to view information; however, they cannot do any DoDEA related work while on the website.
If we are furloughed at the end of the school year and if it extends into the next school year, how will employees be notified to return to work?
If officially furloughed, employees will receive a proposed notice of furlough a minimum of 30 days in advance and be given a period to respond. A decision letter will then be issued notifying employees of the actual effective furlough dates. Considering the uncertain and changing circumstances surrounding a furlough, DoDEA would make efforts to ensure that employees are provided with up-to-date and accurate information. Information may be distributed using various methods to include updates via our DoDEA website and OPM’s websites, through effective union-management communication, employee briefings, periodic bulletins, and newsletters.
If furloughed, are we prohibited from other employment and without the possibility of recouping the lost wages?
While on furlough time off, an individual remains an employee of the Federal Government. Therefore, executive branch-wide standards of ethical conduct and rules regarding outside employment continue to apply when an individual is furloughed (specifically, the executive branch-wide standards of ethical conduct at 5 CFR part 2635). In addition, there are specific statutes that prohibit certain outside activities, and agency-specific supplemental rules that require prior approval of, and sometimes prohibit, outside employment. Therefore, an employee should review these regulations and then consult the DoDEA Office of General Counsel prior to engaging in outside employment.
The information you have requested is not yet available at this time. DoDEA is in the process of engaging the unions and making determinations of procedures and appropriate arrangements regarding how the agency will implement the furlough. DoDEA will continue to keep the workforce informed and make information available once determinations are made.
I will graduate from my master’s program in May and will be eligible for a step up on the salary scale. I am currently under the bachelors +15 and will move to the master’s column. Will I still be eligible for the same increase in pay? If so, will the increase in pay be presented at the time my paperwork is processed and approved, or will I have to wait longer for it because of the budget cuts?
Academic Salary Lane (ASL) changes will be processed as normal. Such increases may not be denied or delayed solely because of lack of funds. You will be required to complete the ASL paperwork along with your official transcripts reflecting your master's degree. Please go online to the ASL Application page for required ASL processing information and forms.
I am already repaying a debt and currently have 15% of my pay taken out of my pay check. With the possibility of furlough happening and possibly 20% more of my pay being taken, will my debt be put on hold until the furloughs are finished?
We have checked the Financial Management Regulation (FMR) and have not found anything that would prohibit DFAS from continuing debt collection due to a "partial" furlough since the employee would still be receiving "partial" pay. However, there are several things to be considered. If DFAS is deducting the maximum 15% of the employee's disposable net pay that amount would be adjusted due to the furlough because the employee would have less biweekly disposable net pay. If the employee has elected to have a set dollar amount deducted and that amount exceeds the 15% that would have been deducted, the employee could submit another Voluntary Repayment Agreement (VRA) to have that amount adjusted.
More information on order of precedence when gross pay is not sufficient can be found on the OPM website.
Note: This list of questions will be updated periodically. Please check back regularly for more information. For detailed information on how a furlough will affect employees, see the Guidance for Administrative Furloughs published by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).