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Utah congressman Rob Bishop says HAFB furloughs are illegal

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Leah Hogsten | Tribune file photo Rep. Rob Bishop, center, is asking the Department of Defense to reconsider furloughing civilian employees at working capital funds depots, including the Ogden Air Logistics Center at Hill Air Force Base.

By peg mcentee

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Jul 23 2013 05:34PM
Updated Jul 23, 2013 10:56PM

U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop on Tuesday met with a top Department of Defense official to argue that it was illegal to furlough thousands of civilian DOD employees at working capital funds depots, including the Ogden Air Logistics Complex.

The Utah congressman and others had asked Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to reconsider the furloughs of workers paid by the self-sustaining Defense Working Capital fund. Such employees work for DOD components that sell goods and services to others and are paid from fees customers pay, not from federal appropriations.

In their meeting with Under Secretary Robert Hale, Bishop insisted that a federal law prevents the DOD from imposing furloughs on those workers, said Melissa Subbotin, Bishop’s spokeswoman.

"The law is clear," Bishop said in a statement. "The DOD may think it’s the right policy decision but they do not have the authority to interpret the law as they see fit. I do not agree with the DOD’s interpretation of the statute nor do I agree with the notion they can pick and choose which laws they want to follow."

Subbotin also said the House could vote late Tuesday on an amendment to the Defense Appropriations act bill that would prevent furloughs of workers at capital funds depots in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. The amendment is bipartisan, has "a lot of support" and was expected to pass, she said.

At Hill Air Force Base, about 11,000 civilian employees are furloughed for a total of up to 11 days until Sept. 30.

Last weekend, Hagel said the furloughs probably will continue next year, The Associated Press reported. Hagel also said layoffs were possible for the 800,000 employees if Congress doesn’t stop such cuts in the next fiscal year.

Hagel said there’s "a very dark cloud" of uncertainty over the Pentagon as Congress considers whether to reverse $52 billion in spending reductions set to go into effect in 2014, according to AP.

pegmcentee@sltrib.com

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