Entries in Furloughs (4)


FAA Suspends Air Traffic Control Furloughs

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Federal Aviation Administration announced Saturday that it is suspending employee furloughs and will restore normal staffing levels at air traffic facilities by Sunday evening, easing more than a week of major delays because of cutbacks in air traffic control.

“The FAA has suspended all employee furloughs. Air traffic facilities will begin to return to regular staffing levels over the next 24 hours and the system will resume normal operations by Sunday evening,” the FAA said in a statement.

On Friday, Congress passed legislation which provides the FAA with transfer authority for $253 million until October to restore the staffing levels at the nation’s airports which have encountered major airline delays over the past week as the furloughs have hit air traffic controllers.

A White House official told ABC News’ Jeff Zeleny that President Obama was set to sign the legislation over the weekend but must now wait until Tuesday so that a spelling error in the measure can be corrected.

In his weekly address Saturday, the president called the legislation merely a “Band-Aid” and said Congress must end the cuts impacting other services stemming from $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester.

“These cuts are scheduled to keep falling across other parts of the government that provide vital services for the American people,” the president said. “We can’t just keep putting Band-Aids on every cut.  It’s not a responsible way to govern.  There is only one way to truly fix the sequester: by replacing it before it causes further damage.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Airport Delays Point to Sequester Cuts

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Air travel is likely to become even more frustrating than usual, starting Sunday. The Federal Aviation Administration has begun furloughs resulting from mandatory budget cuts for some of its 47,000 agency employees.

It's unclear how many employees are already affected by so-called sequestration, the automatic federal spending cuts that kicked in this year after Congress failed to reach a deal to reduce the national deficit.

The bottom line is that travelers are faced with the real possibility of hours-long delays as air-traffic controllers -- there are 15,000 of them -- begin to take unpaid leave, the FAA says.

American Airlines has said that some of the nation's busiest airports will most likely be affected by the FAA cuts: John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York; Newark Liberty International Airport; Chicago's O'Hare International Airport; Los Angeles International Airport; and New York's LaGuardia Airport.

This is a relatively slow time of year for air travel, so any fallout would likely intensify in the summer, when weekends rival Thanksgiving for busiest air-travel time, travel experts say. Throw in unpredictable summer thunderstorms, and there's reason for worry, according to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.

But there are already signs of trouble:

@akashgoyal tweeted on Sunday, "Is our gate agent for real? She's blaming a 45-min delay to my flight on 'government cut-backs' on overhead announcements."

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority has picked up early signs of delays: Ronald Reagan National is reporting "several minute increased wait times at TSA security screening" on Sunday, the authority says.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association has reported no substantial holdups on Sunday with the light travel and good weather.

American Airlines, which represents most domestic carriers, filed a lawsuit against the FAA Friday in an attempt to block controller furloughs.

In a statement issued by the carrier Saturday, customers were urged to check their flight status before coming to the airport on Sunday.

"Unfortunately, the FAA has not yet provided specific details to the airlines, making it difficult to communicate exactly how customers will be affected," American said. "However, we will make every effort to communicate with our customers as information becomes available."

Ordered to find a way to cut $637 million from the agency's budget, the FAA is forced to schedule one furlough day every two weeks for an unspecified number of employees, which officials say will mean fewer takeoffs and landings.

As ABC News reported Friday, Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood at a news conference warned that passengers could see "a wide range of impacts across the system," adding that "safety is not up for negotiation during the sequester" and "will not be compromised in anything that we do."

"This is not what we signed up for," LaHood added. "[The sequester] is a dumb idea."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


TSA Head: Possible Hiring Freeze Before Sequester Furlough

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- We’ve heard the doomsday scenarios of how automatic spending cuts from the sequester might impact airports: Travel Security Administration (TSA) workers could be furloughed, stretching security resources thin and leading to nightmarish lines and long waits at airport security checkpoints.

But the head of the TSA has offered a glimmer of hope, testifying on Capitol Hill that the agency might look to a hiring freeze before furloughs if the sequester goes into effect.

“The bottom line is, for us: We have been watching the whole sequester discussion closely and assessing what impact it will have for us,” TSA head John Pistole told the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security Wednesday. “We’re doing other things before furloughing, so for example, we would look at a hiring freeze.”

Federal employees being furloughed as part of the sequester must be notified at least a month in advance, according to guidelines from the Office of Personnel Management. That means if the sequester goes into effect this week, we could see a shortage of airport security officers starting in April, when TSA would furlough its 50,000 employees for up to seven days and cut back on overtime.

But if the TSA enacts a hiring freeze first, before resorting to furloughs, that could postpone the nightmare scenario Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano warned against, writing in a letter to lawmakers, “Funding and staffing reductions will increase wait times at airports, affect security between land ports of entry, affect CBP’s [Customs and Border Patrol] ability to collect revenue owed to the Federal Government, and slow screening and entry programs for those traveling into the United States....The Transportation Security Administration would reduce its frontline workforce, which would substantially increase passenger wait times at airport security checkpoints.”

Additionally, the FAA identified smaller airports that could take big hits if the sequester goes into effect -- including 72 that could eliminate their overnight shifts and 238 air traffic control facilities that could be shut down altogether, Pistole said.

If the TSA implements a hiring freeze, its length would depend on how long the sequester is, Pistole said. He noted the TSA would still continue to process job applications during the freeze, so when the sequester comes and goes, the agency can be in a position to hire later this spring or summer.

The longer the sequester drags on, the more TSA will feel its impacts -- and it’s those busy summer travel months that will need the most security resources to keep things moving smoothly.

“When you think about holiday travel, and with spring breaks and summer travel coming up, the impact would be more noticeable, I think, longer-term as we look at our ability to surge resources to those busiest times,” Pistole said.

Neither TSA nor DHS responded to calls about a timeline for when the hiring freeze or furloughs might occur under the sequester.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill Wednesday continued to express frustration about the automatic, across-the-board cuts set to go into effect Friday -- and the partisan bickering that got them there.

“I don’t agree with it as a policy tool, or any other way. It’s the wrong thing to do,” said Rep. John Carter, D-Texas, chair of the Homeland Security subcommittee. “[In] my view, it’s crude, pointless -- reminds us all of the importance that we need to follow regular order in everything we do.”

Ranking House Appropriations Committee member Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., agreed.

“It’s disheartening that the majority has rejected Democrats’ calls to prevent sequestration by closing tax loopholes and reigning in the growth of future spending,” she said. “But I’ve always been an optimist, and I do hope reasonable people, such as those serving on this committee and others, can begin to work together to resolve this impasse that does such damage to its economy.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Government Shutdown: Employees May Have to Turn In BlackBerrys

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The dark shadow of a government shutdown is hanging over Capitol Hill and congressional offices are planning for the worst -- like what to do with the more than one million government-issued BlackBerry cellphones.

Memos are starting to go out informing staffers if they are "essential" or not, and rumors of collection bins for office-issued BlackBerry devices are flying through the hallways.

"We were hopeful maybe it won't happen yesterday, but after this afternoon…with the president's veto threat we are thinking this is going to happen.  Reality is setting in.  Everyone's preparing now," said one Republican House staffer Thursday.

The House Administration Committee issued a guidance memo Thursday encouraging members to confiscate furloughed employees' BlackBerry phones and laptops to ensure no one breaks the moratorium on performing official duties.  Over a million BlackBerry cellphones are used by government employees, according to a spokeswoman for RIM, the company that owns BlackBerry.

"The physical collection does seem a little bit dramatic but certainly the temptation is absolutely there," said the staffer, who asked not to be named because shutdown plans have not been made public yet.  "For a lot of us this is our life and to say well, no, we have to put it on hold is very tough.  I can't imagine it.  'Just sit back and stay at home' sounds like it would be great, but it's definitely not."

Rep. Thad McCotter, R-Mich., said he will not collect his furloughed staffers' cellphones.

"You don't need to go around like you're disarming them.  They are responsible adults.  I trust them not to use them," McCotter said.

The committee's guidance was rather vague on which staff members are "essential" and which should be furloughed, saying only employees whose work is necessary to fulfill a member's constitutional responsibilities, safeguard human life or protect property are "essential."

There is no consensus on just how many employees will stay in the event of a shutdown.  Some offices have said they will keep their entire staffs.  Others, like McCotter's office, has said every staff member will be furloughed.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio