The Air Force's civilian workforce got some good news Wednesday, when Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force chief of staff, testified no plans exist for unpaid civilian furloughs during the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.
"I meant exactly what I said. We have no plans to furlough in FY '14," Welsh told the House Armed Services Committee.
The federal budget sequester, which took effect in March, called for $85 billion in short-term cuts from a myriad of federal agencies, with half of that hit coming out of the Pentagon budget.
As a result, nearly 4,500 civilian employees at Scott Air Force Base -- as well as nearly 700,000 other civilian workers around the world -- had to take six unpaid furlough days beginning in early July. The original number of furlough days was 22, which got reduced to 11, and then six after Air Force leaders shifted funding in a variety of non-essential programs.
Under questioning by U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart, D-Belleville, Welsh called the furloughs last summer "a breach of faith" and said the Air Force is seeking to avoid more furloughs in the 2014 fiscal year.
"We have got to resolve whatever we call this thing -- sequestration, fiscal crisis, whatever it is -- we've got to fix it," Welsh told panel members. "We are doing things that are unprecedented as far as decisions that are being made inside the services, including furloughs. "
Enyart sought assurances from Welsh who restated a pledge that no further mandatory unpaid days are forthcoming.
"Sequestration was a bad idea to begin with, and it's a worse idea as we go forward," Enyart stated at the hearing.
After Wednesday's hearing, Enyart released a statement saying that the "hardships and uncertainty endured by the military and defense employees are unnecessary."
Enyart called on leaders of the U.S. Congress and President Barack Obama "to work together to find meaningful solutions to the nation's budget crisis. Extending the sequester is not the answer."