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Pentagon cuts furlough days for its civilian workers

By Lolita C. Baldor

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 02:43 p.m. HST, Mar 27, 2013

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 today, 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 today, 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, but lawmakers passed a massive spending bill last week that shifted money around in order to give the Defense Department more flexibility in how it found the savings.

Initially, civilians would have been required to take one day a week off without pay for 22 weeks, through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30 — a 20 percent pay cut for more than five months. The congressional action has given officials the leeway to lessen the salary cuts and also spread money around to other key priorities, including training, maintenance and possible ship deployments.

As an example, the Navy had delayed the refueling overhauls of two aircraft carriers, the USS Theodore Roosevelt and the USS Abraham Lincoln — critical maintenance work that officials said would be among the priorities if additional funding could be identified.

Under the new plan, the unpaid furloughs would not begin until mid-June, with notices going out before that.

Officials have been meeting over the past week to discuss the range of options, including how many of thefurlough days could be eliminated.

The Pentagon has declined to say how many of the 800,000 civilian employees would be exempt from thefurloughs, although officials have estimated it would be at least 10 percent of the overall civilian workforce. Officials said last week that about 5 percent of Navy and Marine Corps civilians and about 24 percent of Army civilians likely would be exempt from the furloughs, although those numbers may change with the new funding.

Exempt workers include civilians in the war zone and in critical public safety jobs, as well as people whose jobs are not paid for through congressional funding. As an example, some employees may be contractors or people working in facilities that pay for operations out of their earnings, such as some recreation jobs or foreign military sales.

Critics have complained that the Pentagon has overstated the effects of the spending cuts and has canceled or sliced into more visible and popular programs. In early announcements the Navy delayed the deployment of an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf and canceled several other ship deployments, while other services slashed training, equipping and maintenance programs, cut commissary hours and warned that 15,000 teachers and staff would be furloughed one day a week at the 194 military schools around the world.

The Pentagon had said they would manage those furloughs so that pupils got the required hours of education and the schools did not lose their accreditation.

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pcman wrote:
Being a former DOD civilian employee, I think this is all shibai (BS, in English). Civilian pay is allocated by Congress and "fenced" so not any more and not any less can be spent on civilian pay without approval by Congress. The sequestration called for 2.3 percent cut in pay. That would have been easily covered by the retirement of the civilians, by not filling their vacant billets.
on March 27,2013 | 01:43PM
lee1957 wrote:
Congress was the force behind the furloughs with automatic across the board cuts across specific accounts, civilian pay being one of them.
on March 27,2013 | 06:36PM
AhiPoke wrote:
All BS. They could probably accomplish more by freezing pay. After all, there was no cut, only a lower amount of increase. Our government now makes it a practice of lying to it's citizens. I'm guessing George Washington, Ben Franklin, etc. are turning in their graves. This was not how our country was suppose to evolve.
on March 27,2013 | 02:03PM
jamos96825 wrote:
@pcman No wander you WAS a DOD Civilian the way I see it 80 hours - 16 hours adds up to a 20% cut in pay. Learn to add
on March 27,2013 | 02:16PM
Upperkula wrote:
That Korean Mahu leader is threatning us with a nuclear weapon and our government wants to cut the military budget, something wrong here, remember TORO TORO TORO it could happen again.
on March 27,2013 | 03:37PM
jakwa wrote:
I think you meant TORA TORA TORA. TORO is the lawnmower brand...
on March 27,2013 | 04:56PM
IAmSane wrote:

LOL So much fail.
on March 27,2013 | 11:09PM
jussayin wrote:
This is BS as another poster noted. Most of the DOD agencies have non-labor requirements that could have been cut instead of labor. Obama and the Dems want to show 'pain' to prove their point. In general, funds come down to the various regions and prioritized from there. So there's flexibility as to what requirements should be unfunded. Same story. Politics.
on March 27,2013 | 05:15PM
lee1957 wrote:
The sequester was agreed to by all parties Democrats and Republican alike.
on March 27,2013 | 06:38PM
nodaddynotthebelt wrote:
If the federal government were unionized, we would not see a furlough. Instead we would see our federal taxes triple. And then we would receive PR from the union saying how good and just our tax dollars are being spent. Seriously, our Congress has turned its back on its people in order protect its political ideology. The Republicans refuse to give and it is to their advantage. In other word they want to see our Democratic president fail through the failure of our economy for the sake of their next party's presidential hopefuls. The Democratic president who has nothing to lose as he cannot run for another term wants to push his Democratic ideology even at the cost of sequestration. At stake is his effort to cut the tax loopholes used by the wealthy. The Republicans, many of whom are wealthy as well as their backers, claim that their taxes have already been increased and refuse to give up all their tax loopholes. They want cuts in spending instead. And if not budging means sequestration, they have won the war. And they have even come forward and said that they see no effects of the sequestration. That is a foolish outlook as it will take effect. It just will not be sudden. But it will take effect in terms of the loss of revenue from these civilian employees not spending and possibly the loss of these employees. They have already removed much of the civilian contractors which means that they have lost a lot in terms of experience and knowledge. In their place are contractors that do not have the experience to meet the demands of our past contractors. Our current civilian staff are already being stretched and to place them on furlough on top of losing much of their supporting staff from civilian contractors is definitely going to effect our military readiness. What they are doing is reducing our power to be effective and that is what our enemies would like to see. I would be very cautious right now as I am sure our enemies are seeing this as a weakening of our defenses. The president and his staff should be able to foresee this impact and it is incredible that they seem to not see it. Instead of continuing to work with the other party he goes on a trip to Israel. That does not bode well for us.
on March 27,2013 | 05:16PM
lee1957 wrote:
The Federal work force is unionized, but they can't bargain over pay like some incestual places.
on March 27,2013 | 06:39PM
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