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Defense furlough days cut from 11 to 6

By Lolita C. Baldor

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 07:46 a.m. HST, Aug 06, 2013

WASHINGTON » The Pentagon is moving to ease the pain of mandatory, unpaid furloughs that civilian employees have had to bear for a month because of budgetary pressures, cutting the number of days off from 11 to six, The Associated Press has learned.

Officials say the Pentagon found sufficient savings in the final months of the current fiscal year to lessen the burden on those who have had to take a day off a week without pay since early July. Officials said last week that they would need to find about $900 million in savings in order to eliminate five of the 11 furlough days.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel approved the final numbers this week after meeting with top leaders. Officials discussed this situation only if granted anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about it publicly.

The decision came as about 650,000 civilian workers began their fifth week of furloughs, which have riled department employees and prompted many to complain directly to Hagel during his visits to military bases in recent weeks.

Hagel has been saying that budget people were trying to find savings to shorten the furlough time. But officials also have cautioned that the savings are for this year only, and won't affect likely budget cuts in 2014, if Congress doesn't act to avoid automatic, across-the-board cuts slated for next year.

The 11 furlough days were expected to save roughly $2 billion.

Officials said the savings are the result of a number of things, including penny-pinching by the military services and Congress' decision to give the Pentagon more flexibility in moving money around between accounts. They indicated that budget crunchers moved money from lower priority accounts in order to free up money to reduce the furloughs and provide additional resources to other programs that directly affect the military's readiness for combat.

During his recent visits to bases in North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida, Hagel was peppered by with questions by civilian defense employee worried about the furloughs and their job security. Some gasped in surprise as the Pentagon chief warned that budget cuts would likely continue next year, probably triggering more furloughs and possibly, layoffs.

Facing $37 billion in budget cuts this year, Pentagon leaders initially announced the 11 furlough days, arguing they needed to shift money to other priorities, including combat training, flight hours, and efforts to bring tons of equipment out of Afghanistan. Since then, budget chiefs have been analyzing the numbers in a persistent effort to find unspent dollars as they neared the end of the fiscal year.

A law enacted two years ago ordered the government to come up with $1.2 trillion in savings over a decade. The law included the threat of annual automatic cuts as a way of forcing lawmakers to reach a deal, but they have been unable to do so. The Pentagon, as a result, is facing $500 billion in cuts over the next decade. For the 2014 budget year, that will mean a reduction of up to $54 billion from current spending totals.

About 85 percent of the department's civilians have been subject to furloughs. The bulk of the exempt employees are foreign nationals or workers not paid through appropriated funding. Nearly 7,000 defense intelligence workers are also exempt, along with about 29,000 workers at Navy shipyards, where officials worried that the harm to shop maintenance would end up costing more than the salary cuts would save.

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cojef wrote:
Reminds me of the days working back in the 70's in Los Angeles as a civil servant. Our office was located above the GSA store that was located in the basement and every year during the month of September, especially the last 2 weeks, varies agencies would flock to the store and purchase almost all of the office supplies carried by the GSA. This was a practice by the agencies to spend the remaing funds in their allocation(budget) regardless of the needs of that particular agency. The mantra was if you did not spend it in the current years, the remaing dollars could not be carried into the new fiscal year and returned to the Treasury. Hence the urgency to spend, plus there was always the possibilities that your next years allocation of funds could be reduced for carrying a surplus. Currently because of the sequestration it is the opposite, now its scrounging around for funds to minimize the furlough. During that period, the entire Federal civilian labor force was a smidgen over 2 million. Today, I'm not sure but it must be 10X the amount more than back in 70's.
on August 6,2013 | 08:28AM
Anonymous wrote:
furlough lawmakers and their staff
on August 6,2013 | 11:43AM
palani wrote:
Dang, it's getting harder and harder to make sequestration as painful as possible. Reality sucks when you're the President.
on August 6,2013 | 08:41AM
localguy wrote:
Notice how our dysfunctional congressional reps ensured their pay is not part of the furlough. They are still receiving a full paycheck and bennies even though their willful failure to do their job caused the furlough. Some of the bureaucrats said they are feeling the pain, donating an equal amount to charity. Hello, that is a tax deduction, you are not feeling any pain. Congressional bureaucrats have no ethics or leadership values. If they did they would ensure their pay is on the same level of every other federal employee, leading by example. Not going to happen, they are laughing at how other DoD employees are losing money. They have a "Let them eat cake" attitude, typical of our "Beltway Bandits" While they are home on vacation, if you get a chance, ask them about their failures. Watch how fast they will spin it as "Not their fault" Losers all of them.
on August 6,2013 | 08:54AM
juscasting wrote:
Why only the DOD civilian workers had to bear the lashing of the cuts? To be fair both active and civs should have had pay reducs.....Jus my 2 cents.....
on August 6,2013 | 10:05AM
lee1957 wrote:
The legistlation that drove the furloughs specifically exempted active duty military, rightly so, in my opinion.
on August 6,2013 | 11:43AM
islandboy1562 wrote:
It just goes to show that proper prioritizing and some belt tightening is possible within the federal budget. The citizens of this country are continually hoodwinked by legislators and federal bureaucrats about sequestration and its impacts. It is quite possible that additional savings can be found if looked further. Actually these "savings" are really government waste. Its time for serious belt tightening for the federal budget , and proper prioritizing of our federal dollars.
on August 6,2013 | 10:41AM
nodaddynotthebelt wrote:
We can thank both parties for this situation. The President for not doing enough and the Republicans' unwillingness to give up any of their tax loopholes. Had the Republicans unselfishly accepted the loss of their tax loophole in order to help cut the deficit, this sequester would likely not have occurred in the first place. And it was really outrageous when the Republicans stood at the podium stating that the sequester had no real effect on the people when in fact many had their pay cut by over twenty percent. Those who were under the sequester through furloughs still had to pay their medical coverage which is now even more of a burden as it still costs the same and the bills don't go on sequester. The fact that the military put all the burden on their civilian support is not only going to affect morale but also it tells them that they are not important enough to protect from this kind of treatment. The military should have spread the burden on the military itself, not just the civilian support. Had they done that it would not have been as devastating. I can only imagine what such a pay cut would do to a household. When a five percent pay cut is placed on a state worker you will see an outcry and possible strike. A twenty percent pay cut is just incredible. This news of a a reduction in furlough days is certainly good news but will happen in the next fiscal year? Will the workers be again faced with such a debilitating pay cut? It seems very unfair for the civilians to take all the brunt of the burden all the while the military do not take a single red cent in pay cuts. You cannot blame the military for its action but the President is accountable for this. He let it happen on his watch.
on August 6,2013 | 10:53AM
HD36 wrote:
If interest rates rise to 10% and the National Debt in $20 trillion, our payments on the debt will be $2 trillion a year! We're at $17 trillion now and interest rates are set to explode to the upside as the bond bubble bursts, the Fed tapers, then begins to unwind its grand experiment. Does anyone really believe they won't raise the debt ceiling again?
on August 6,2013 | 03:46PM
serious wrote:
Tough time, but Air Force One still flies every other day at $180,000 an hour. Gotta love that guy!!!! Got to get to that J LENNO SHOW!!!
on August 6,2013 | 03:57PM
ohialehua wrote:
DOD civilian employees are well-compensated. Many get a 25% 'hardship' bonus for having to work in Hawaii. Seriously. And untaxed COLA. Most ain't hurting, comparatively speaking.
on August 6,2013 | 04:00PM
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