For over a year, I’ve been meeting with members of our community to discuss the potential impact of the arbitrary, across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration. Last week I sat down with civilian defense employees at Patuxent River Naval Air Station to hear firsthand how furloughs, which begin this week, are affecting morale and operations. Today, I took their stories to the House Floor to highlight the harmful impact of this irrational sequester policy on working families, our economy, and national security. Here’s some of what I shared with my colleagues:
“Last Tuesday, I met with some of the outstanding men and women who work at civilian defense jobs at Pax River Naval Air Station in my district. When you go to Pax River, you often see uniformed and civilian personnel sitting side-by-side, working to accomplish the same mission, serving with the same dedication – partners in making our government stronger and making our defense stronger – each complementing the work of the other. Now, as a result of these furloughs, one of them will get a 20% pay cut. One of them will be told to go home. One of them will be told you can't even volunteer to come back and get the job done. And the other will get one day a week of having to carry out the mission alone.”
“At that meeting, I heard from members of the Pax River community who are deeply concerned about the effects of these furloughs on our military readiness, our ongoing missions, on department morale, and on the local economy. Now they were concerned about themselves, but they were mainly concerned about the job that was going to be left undone, finished late, undermining our security.”
“One person scheduled to be furloughed this Friday told me – and I quote: ‘I have a strong work ethic, and I want to get the job done, whether it’s late nights and weekends. …and I’m worried someone will come to me [on a Thursday], and I’ll have to say I can’t get a job done until Monday’ – because we are telling that person you can't come to work.”
“We are undermining the morale of the American workers. We are undermining the ability of the American government to be as effective with respect to national defense as it needs to be.”
“Mr. Speaker, this sequester is harming morale and may lead skilled employees to leave for the private sector just when we need them most. The effects of the sequester extend beyond the gates of our installations and affect entire communities, with local businesses standing to lose as a result of belt-tightening by families experiencing furloughs.”
“At the Naval Surface Warfare Center at Indian Head, also in Maryland's Fifth District, 97% of civilian personnel will be furloughed. That's more than 1,870 people.”
“Mr. Speaker, there's no reason why our civilian defense workers should be kept from doing their job just because Congress hasn’t done its job.”
I went on to say, as I have been saying for months, that Congress must stop the furloughs of civilian defense employees by replacing the untargeted spending cuts imposed by the sequester with a balanced deficit reduction agreement that reflects our budget priorities.
I know that many civilian defense employees are struggling with the uncertainty caused by the sequester, and I share their frustration. In addition to these furloughs, which represent a 20 percent pay reduction, federal employees have contributed $114 billion to deficit reduction in frozen cost-of-living adjustments and changes to retirement benefits. These middle-class Americans cannot afford and shouldn’t have to endure additional pay cuts.
For the sake of these working Americans, our national security, and our local economy, I continue to urge my colleagues to reach a balanced agreement that will end the sequester, eliminate furloughs, and put our nation on a sound fiscal path.
As always, thank you for allowing me to share this update with you, and please continue to share your concerns and insights with me by contacting my office or connecting with me on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.