There’s been a lot of news lately about the furloughs of DOD employees; we were curious about what it really meant. A friend obliged with a copy of his furlough notice, received in May, which took effect in July. We have redacted both his information, and other personally identifying information of the Pentagon personnel bureaucrats that are given in the message. Here’s a picture of the first paragraph of the first page of the three-page letter.
Army insiders will have no problem mapping out that office symbol; quite a few DA civilians work there, and almost all (if not all) of them got one of these. Like many retired service members who continue to contribute to National Defense in some way or other, this individual can’t participate in the retirement program; he’s already retired, from the military service, and Congressmen, who earn lavish lifetime benefits from a single two-year term, have banned veterans from “double dipping” in the interests of, naturally, “fairness”. (Many of them also earn military retirements from bogus, near-no-show JAG jobs. Fairness depends if you’re a politician).
The furlough notice goes on to say that if someone in a similar position didn’t catch a furlough, it’s because he or she is already working without pay (for example, a reserve officer working for retirement points alone), the person is actually a loaner or joint-program assignee from one of the uncut or less-cut departments, or are mission-critical or exempted by Secretary Hagel.
Hagel’s memo listing the exemptions is interesting, and it’s quite a bit longer than the individual kiss-off. After a bit of sniveling about how much it grieves him to do this, he gets down to it. Some are clearly common sense (Navy nuclear reactor workers, check). Medical and public safety personnel (i.e. DOD cops) are exempt. Some are clearly political in nature (all Presidential appointees won’t “share in the sacrifice” — that’s for the little people). Foreign nationals employed overseas won’t be cut. But many weird exemptions are due to weird provisions in other laws: the DOD can’t furlough its hundreds of H-1B visa temporary immigrants without then losing their visas, it can just furlough their citizen peers.
The combat zone doesn’t mean what you think it means, either. Albania (where the biggest danger is romantic entanglement with the hot local women), Bosnia, Croatia, Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Serbia all count, even though the shooting war in that AO wound up about 14 years ago — so long ago that the Hague is actually getting to the end of its ethnic-cleansing trials. As well as the “usual suspects,” where a feller actually could get shot or blow’d up, the nations containing the entire logistical train of the rump GWOT are also included: Bahrain, Djibouti, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikstan, UAE, Uzbekistan.
(These safe-as-houses places are used in a game by Air Force members, senior officers, and DOD civilians that goes like this: fly into one on the last day of the month, like 31 July. Overnight and fly out on 1 August. Presto! You get “combat pay” and tax exemption for the entire months of July and August. The night of 30 September/1 October you can do it again! Just like being part of the war, without the inconvenience, hardship and risk).
By far the majority of DOD personnel drawing “combat pay” and receiving combat tax exemption are not exposed to risk; it’s just become one more entitlement, under the radar. But that’s another issue entirely. (We’re not sure if the one-day-a-month artful dodgers have managed to inoculate themselves against the furloughs, too, by their monthly trip to “combat.” Probably).
Like most everything that’s all screwed up in modern life, there’s a lot of lawyer work in this. But we thought it would be worthwhile to put the actual documents up, not the dishonest spin coming from Hagel’s flacks (who are “mission critical” and exempt, natch), and the confusion emanating from the militarily-ignorant media.
The entire individual Furlough memo:
The Hagel memo on the exceptions.