Still, top Republicans on congressional transportation and aviation panels accused the administration of unnecessary alarm.
"Before jumping to the conclusion that furloughs must be implemented, the administration and the agency need to sharpen their pencils and consider all the options," the lawmakers said in a joint statement issued by Rep. Bill Shuster, chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure; Sen. John Thune, the top Republican on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation; and Frank LoBiondo, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Aviation.
Throughout the administration, agency heads have been depicting an onerous after-effect to the cuts. The federal government is required to spell out the consequences to federal workers, but the details are also designed to warn lawmakers that the cuts could have a fearsome result: angry constituents. Some of the warnings:
— Defense Secretary Leon Panetta last week said that automatic cuts, known in Washington budget language as a sequester, would harm the readiness of U.S. fighting forces and he said the "vast majority" of the Defense Department's 800,000 civilian workers would have to lose one day of work per week, or 20 percent of their pay, for up to 22 weeks, probably starting in late April. The biggest potential losses, in term of total civilian payroll dollars, would be in Virginia, California, Maryland, Texas and Georgia, according to figures provided by the Pentagon.