WASHINGTON – The Pentagon will sharply cut the number of unpaid furlough days civilians will be forced to take over the next several months from 22 to 14, defense officials said Wednesday, reducing the impact of automatic budget cuts on as many as 700,000 workers.
According to defense officials, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel made the decision Wednesday, as military service chiefs and defense leaders continued to work through the details, trying to prioritize how they will allocate the more than $10 billion that Congress, in an attempt to take some of the sting out of the across-the-board budget cuts, shifted to operations and maintenance accounts. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter ahead of the public announcement.
While some of the military services initially considered eliminating the furloughs altogether, senior leaders argued that since not all the services could do that, it would be better to treat all civilians across the defense department equally.
The military had been faced with some $43 billion in automatic, across-the-board cuts that kicked in March 1.