Pentagon cuts back furlough days for civilian workforce

The Pentagon is reducing the number of days its civilian workforce will be furloughed this year to 14 from 22 as a result of the government funding bill President Obama signed on Tuesday.

The Associated Press reported that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel decided Wednesday to cut the number of furlough days for nearly 800,000 civilian employees at the Defense Department, most of whom would be furloughed.

The reduction in furloughs is possible because the continuing resolution that Congress passed included a full-year Defense appropriations bill that shifts an additional $10 billion into the military’s operations and maintenance accounts. 

Those accounts, which fund civilian pay as well as training and repairs, would have faced heavy shortfalls had the Pentagon been funded through a full-year continuing resolution.

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The Pentagon still must cut more than $40 billion under sequestration, but the Defense appropriations bill puts the department on better fiscal footing before the across-the-board cuts are implemented.

The Pentagon’s initial plan for civilian furloughs, which officials said saved between $4 billion and $5 billion in fiscal year 2013, would have required most civilians to take off one day per week between April and September, for a total of 22 days.

Now the start date for the unpaid days has been pushed back until mid-June, according to the AP.

Some civilian jobs are exempt from the furloughs, such as those operating in war zones.

The civilian furloughs has been one of the most concrete examples of pain under the across-the-board sequestration cuts. Before the cuts took effect in March, the Pentagon played up the impact of the cuts through the furloughs as well as canceled deployments, including a second Navy carrier group to the Persian Gulf.

Some Republican lawmakers accused the Pentagon of playing up the "drama" of the cuts for political gain.

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