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Pearl Harbor shipyard workers spared from Pentagon furloughs

By William Cole

LAST UPDATED: 2:26 p.m. HST, May 14, 2013

The Pentagon is exempting shipyard workers from 11 furlough days that will hit most Defense Department civilian employees between July 8 and the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year.

The decision will affect 4,447 civilian workers who work at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, the state’s largest industrial employer, officials said. Another 554 military members who work there are not subject to the furloughs. 

A memo sent out by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel today said employees in Navy shipyards will be excepted from furlough “because it would be particularly difficult to make up delays in maintenance work on nuclear vessels and these vessels are critical to mission success.”

About 90 percent of the Pearl Harbor shipyard work is on nuclear Los Angeles-class and Virginia-class attack submarines.

Hagel directed defense managers today to prepare to furlough most Defense Department civilian employees for the 11 days due to budgetary shortfalls.

After weeks of debate and number-crunching, the Defense Department announced plans today to furlough about 680,000 of its civilian employees for 11 days through the end of this fiscal year, allowing only limited exceptions for the military to avoid or reduce the unpaid days off.

During a town hall meeting with about 6,400 department personnel in Northern Virginia, Hagel was direct: “I tried everything. We did everything we could not to get to this day this way. But that’s it. That’s where we are,” the Associated Press reported.

The furlough notices are expected to begin going out May 28, and workers will have several days to respond or seek appeals.Officials said the furloughs will save the department about $1.8 billion.

Congressionally mandated automatic budget cuts initially forced the Pentagon to warn that the bulk of its 800,000 civilians would be forced to take 22 unpaid days off — one in each of the last 22 weeks of the fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30. When lawmakers approved a new spending bill at the end of March, they gave the Pentagon greater latitude to find savings, and the furlough days were cut to 14.

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