The Obama Administration’s dire warnings that cuts to the rate of spending increases–known as “sequestration”–would unleash economic destruction and national peril appear to have been wildly overblown, as nearly every major agency has reduced or eliminated altogether the number of mandatory unpaid leave days for government workers.
Furlough days in the Defense Department were originally planned to apply to all 750,000 of its civilian employees for 22 days. The Pentagon has now cut that all the way down to just six days for 650,000 Defense civilians.
Other agencies experienced similar scale backs on furlough days, reports Government Executive magazine:
The Treasury Department, for example, originally said it would furlough all 90,000 of its Internal Revenue Service employees five days, but has since cut the number of days to three. The Housing and Urban Development Department also recently canceled two furlough days. In May, the Environmental Protection Agency cut furloughs by three days. The Interior Department warned of 12-14 furlough days for the U.S. Park Police, but ultimately ended the furloughs after employees had taken less than half of the expected total.
“The administration previewed a parade of horribles that hasn’t happened,” said Sen. Tom Coburn’s (R-OK) spokesperson John Hart. “We’ve also seen that where there is flexibility there is fat. In other words, [agencies’] ability to be flexible demonstrates that there is plenty of waste and fat in the budget that can be cut before cutting vital services or furloughing employees.”
During the fierce debate over the sequester, the Obama Administration ominously warned that trimming $85 billion from the rate of spending increases–a figure representing just 0.5% of the national debt–would kill 750,000 jobs, abandon female battered victims, leave children without vaccines, and would even lead to a “decrease in number of HIV tests” administered.