Federal employees are facing the specter of being furloughed because of the fiscal year 2013 federal budget sequestration.

Historically speaking, there's nothing new about federal employees and furloughs.

Toward the end of 1995, Congress had yet to appropriate funds and as a result, 284,621 federal employees received a 21-day furlough while another 475,608 worked without pay. Eventually, Congress sorted everything out and those federal employees received compensation. The Department of Defense found exclusion from this record-setting furlough when President Bill Clinton signed the Department of Defense Appropriations Act on Nov. 30, 1995.

In the 20 years before the 1995 furlough, federal agencies experienced 17 shutdowns and employee furloughs. Some of these shutdowns lasted only a day and one went virtually unnoticed, occurring over the Columbus Day weekend in 1990.

In the September 1997 Congressional Research Service Report for Congress titled "Shutdown of the Federal Government: Effects on the Federal Workforce and Other Sectors," James P. McGrath said in all prior shutdowns, federal employees placed on furlough were paid retroactively when Congress passed and the president signed subsequent legislation authorizing such payment.

Before too much stock is placed in the hopes that history will repeat itself, these furloughs were considered emergency furloughs and they each covered one continuous period of time, and for the most part were unexpected.

The potential of a furlough this time is different. If implemented, the DOD alone will set the historic record for the number of federal employees placed on furlough and may tie or exceed 1995's 21-day record.

Page last updated Wed February 27th, 2013 at 00:00