Furloughs set up acquisition ‘perfect storm’

DoD civilian furloughs will cause havoc in military acquisition offices as the services scramble to alter or cancel contracts should sequestration occur.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A senior Army official said the civilian furloughs that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced Wednesday would create a “perfect storm” of problems for the Army acquisition community.

Panetta informed Congress on Wednesday that the military will furlough about 800,000 Defense Department civilians should sequestration be enacted on March 1. The sequestration cuts will force the Army to subtract $17-$18 billion from its operations and maintenance budget before October 2013.

The long term sequestration cuts will subtract $500 billion from planned defense spending over the next ten years. Losing that funding will force the Army and the other services to cancel or alter contracts already signed with defense companies.

In other words, the Army acquisition community, which is made up mostly of civilians, will be busy. This poses a problem if you are ordering your civilians to take one day of unpaid leave per week until October.

“Certainly we think there is a potential for a perfect storm because as [Army acquisition chief Heidi Shyu] mentioned earlier, to implement sequestration reductions … to our budget it’s going to potentially necessitate the modification and the potential termination of contracts,” Gabe Camarillo, the principal deputy to the Army acquisition chief, said at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Winter Symposium.

“Contracting actions are going to go up¬†significantly¬†at the same time that we may encounter a shortfall in our work force. That’s going to present some significant challenges for us in the coming weeks and months should we have to implement the reductions,” Camarillo said.

He didn’t specify what specific contracts are at risk should sequestration occur.

Pentagon officials explained that only a select few DoD civilians will be exempted from the furloughs. It’s unclear if the acquisition community will be part of that small group.