For eighteen months, “furlough” and “hiring freeze” are words that continually show up atop the list of search terms that drag people kicking and screaming to my little slice of the internet. Having spent an outlandish amount of time bitching and complaining about both over the last two years, I guess that shouldn’t be much of a surprise. I’d love to tell you all that there’s light at the end of the tunnel and that Uncle Sam’s financial woes are behind him, well, there’s really nothing out there that indicates that’s true at all. From all outward appearances, Uncle has managed to paper over the worst of the problems for the time being. While that seems like a good thing, it probably just means that he’s managed to kick the can further down the road and that when it comes time to settle the tab, it will be even worse than we thought.
By my most recent calculation, I’ve worked under a hiring freeze of one sort or another for about a third of my career. I’m not feeling the pinch at the moment because I’m not actively looking for an eject button, but if I was options would be pretty limited. Having personally experienced the fresh hell of sending out multiple hundreds of resumes to get a handful of interviews, I don’t envy anyone looking for fresh horizons under the latest incarnation of the freeze. Even more unfortunate, I don’t see the market thawing any time soon, either.
Uncle has been warning about employee furloughs for months now. The general public reacted badly to the notion of laying off food inspectors and air traffic controllers, two very visible activities carried out by random, faceless bureaucrats. I have my doubts if there’s going to be the same outcry for defense workers. Working behind the wire, most of the public will never see or know what we do on a daily basis. As a result, us staying home for a week or a month isn’t something they see or experience firsthand. That makes us easy to ignore and therefore an excellent target of opportunity for cost reduction or avoidance.
So far, the department’s official position, at least the one that it’s opted to communicate to the workforce, seems to be ignoring the issue and hoping it goes away… at least that’s what it looks like from the inside. Predictions range from “nothing’s going to happen” to having to take the full 22-day furlough within the last 3 months of the fiscal year. Someone at echelons higher than reality probably has the smattering of a plan, but for the time being the drones are being kept well insulated from anything that resembles official information.
As we grind towards the end of fiscal year 2013, I think we’ll come through with minimal disruptions. What no one is talking about yet, and what I’m convinced is going to bight us all in the ass is that sequestration is a ten year event. Even if we ride out year one with cost savings through attrition and quietly cooking the books, we’ve still got nine years of draconian cost savings to generate…and in my mind that means things are going to get a whole lot worse in the out years before they ever start getting better.