AP News

Congressman questions motive for agency furloughs


DENVER (AP) — Employee furloughs at the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency appear to be part of a political agenda to make automatic federal budget cuts as painful as possible, a Colorado congressman said Wednesday.

Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn said he heard from a credible person inside the agency that a plan had been drawn up to cut spending without furloughs, but that proposal was rejected. He said he could not disclose the person's name.

"That tells me there is a political agenda going on to make this as painful as possible," said Lamborn, who represents Colorado's 5th District, which includes many military installations around Colorado Springs.

The Missile Defense Agency, with headquarters in Arlington, Va., is in charge of attempting to develop ways to shoot down missiles fired at the U.S. and its allies.

Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Elizabeth Robbins said civilian employees were being furloughed consistently across the Defense Department, although some agencies were able to furlough fewer people than others. She declined to comment specifically on Lamborn's comments.

Lamborn released a copy of a March 5 letter he wrote to Vice Adm. James D. Syring, director of the Missile Defense Agency, calling the furloughs "disturbing" and asking who ordered them.

The Pentagon has said the budget cuts that began on Friday will require that most civilian employees of the Defense Department be furloughed one day a week without pay until the fiscal year ends in September. The furloughs will not start until late April because advance notice to employees is required.

The cuts — part of a 2011 law — were once considered too damaging to enact and were designed to force Republicans and Democrats to come up with a compromise budget deal. No deal has been reached, however.

Lamborn voted against the 2011 law.

He said Wednesday he opposes additional tax revenue to close the federal budget gap, citing increases that were included in a January deal.

"We should pivot now to cutting the budget," he said. "However, I want the pivot to look at entitlement reform instead of taking it out of the hide of defense."

Entitlement programs include Social Security and Medicare.

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Follow Dan Elliott at http://twitter.com/DanElliottAP


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