Bill could end furloughs for China Lake

McCarthy pushes amendment through House; bill still awaiting Senate, presidential approval

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Bill could end furloughs for China LakeAn amendment passed last week by the House of Representatives could end the controversial furloughs that have impacted Department of Defense employees such as those at Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, China Lake.

While Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel ordered military-wide furloughs under sequestration, which triggered algorithmic cuts to defense when Congress failed to make necessary cuts to defense and social programs, a faction of House Representatives challenged furloughs for Defense Working Capital-funded agencies, such as WD, as illegal. Unlike many DOD functions that receive direct federal funding, WD is among the assets that compete for work in the free market. As such, furloughs compound the negative fiscal impact, rather than provide a savings to DOD.

McCarthy responded to local outcry by calling a meeting with Robert Hale, undersecretary and comptroller to Hagel, to discuss the questionable legality and cost savings of the act.

McCarthy presented an amendment to the Defense Appropriations Act that would exempt DWCF accounts from furloughs. The House passed the bill 315-109. The bill awaits a Senate vote and presidential signature.

“Since DWCF employees are paid through reimbursements for the services they provide, there are no direct savings in appropriated dollars to be obtained from furloughs,” said McCarthy. “I will continue to press this issue with Secretary Hagel and this administration in addition to this legislation to resolve this matter.”

Although Navy and DOD officials are prohibited from actively lobbying on behalf of China Lake, agencies such as the China Lake Alliance have been engaged in representing the base’s contributions to national defense and fighting the controversial cuts that have impacted the local mission.

“The bottom line is that I am extremely glad Kevin picked up the ball and ran with it as soon as he understood what was at stake,” said Eileen Shibley, executive director of CLA. “Everyone in a leadership position has acknowledged that the cookie-cutter approach does not work here, and I am glad to see this legislation put forward to make it right.”

Shibley pointed out that the Navy was able to identify cuts that achieved the same level of reductions without furloughs. “Even beyond the local impact, sequestration is not the most effective way to manage a budget. We need people with the courage to stand up and call our lawmakers to task for not considering more efficient solutions.

“From the very outset this was a political game of chicken. The tragedy is that the people in the back seat, the ones with no voice whatsoever, are the ones paying the price,” she said.

“With Kevin engaged, I think we now have a political force looking out for those without a voice. Denying those an advocate amounts to sacrificing the needs of the warfighter to further agendas, which is politics at its very ugliest.”

Kern County 1st District Supervisor Mick Gleason, whose previous positions have included CLA executive director as well as Naval Air Weapons Station commanding officer, called the imposition of furloughs “the flat-out wrong way of doing business.

“My understanding, based on conversations with Navy leadership, is that we had ways to manage the issues efficiently, but those were overlooked in favor of these across-the-board cuts,” he said.

“I am thrilled that McCarthy is responding to this ill-advised course of action. There are better ways to manage our people and resources and to support our warfighter. It is much more effective to allow field commanders to make the right decisions. I am glad Kevin is on board and I hope we get this resolved as soon as possible.”

Gleason and McCarthy will co-host a community forum Monday. See related story, this page.

Story First Published: 2013-07-31