February 21, 2013

Defense workers told forced cuts may reduce their pay

Maine civilian personnel would lose a combined $41 million in salary, according to the Pentagon.

By ZACHARY A. GOLDFARB and ERNESTO LONDO The Washington Post

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"There is no mistaking that the rigid nature of the cuts forced upon this department, and their scale, will result in a serious erosion of readiness across the force," Panetta told employees in a memo. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

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Republicans say raising new tax revenue is out of the question and want to replace the defense part of the sequester with deeper cuts to other domestic programs. Republicans also say the federal budget must be balanced within 10 years, which would require far greater cost-cutting than the sequester.

The Pentagon memo was the latest warning about potential furloughs, which would not start until April because of a required notice period. Many details of who would be furloughed, on what days and for how long would be subject to bargaining with public employee unions.

The 20 percent pay cut would hit civilian defense employees hard, union officials said.

"Taking away one day's pay every week could mean the difference between covering the mortgage and putting food on the table," said J. David Cox, president of the American Federation of Government Employees.

Pentagon chiefs have been warning in recent days that the reductions are likely to significantly weaken the readiness of a force reeling from the wear and tear of two long wars.

If the budget is cut according to the congressional guidelines, by the end of the year, Hale said, two thirds of the Army's brigade combat teams will be unfit for deployment.

"It could affect their ability to deploy to new contingencies that come up, or even, if it goes on long enough, to Afghanistan."

Panetta held out hope in the memo that the cuts might be avoided. Even if a deal between the White House and Republicans doesn't occur by March 1, when the automatic cuts will take effect, the parties could reach an agreement that spares the Pentagon.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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