Hagel to take pay cut in solidarity with DOD furloughed workers

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will take the same pay cut as the 750,000 civilian Pentagon employees slated for furloughs in the coming months.

Hagel and Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter plan to voluntarily hand over 14 days of pay back to the Treasury Department, as a sign of solidarity with the Pentagon employees who are being forced to take the same cut via furloughs.

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Both Hagel and Carter are exempt from the furlough plan, since both officials are Senate-confirmed White House appointees, Defense Department (DOD) press secretary George Little told reporters on Tuesday.

"My understanding is ... that there is a legal way to actually write a check, if you will, back to the U.S. Treasury," Little said, regarding how both senior DOD officials would be able to adapt their pay scales to furlough levels.

Carter informed Congress he would be willing to take a pay cut, commensurate with proposed furloughs, during testimony on the department's fiscal situation under sequestration earlier this year.

Hagel announced last Thursday that 750,000 civilian employees will be furloughed for 14 days instead of the 22 days initially projected by the Pentagon.

Keeping workers at home and not paying them for the 14 days between now and Sept. 30 will save $2.5 billion, Hagel said at the time.

That money will go toward DOD's $41 billion share of the automatic, across-the-board budget cuts triggered when sequestration went into effect on March 1.

DOD officials told reporters last week the department was still considering extending the furloughs beyond September, if the White House and Congress can't reach a deal to replace the sequester cuts in the Pentagon's fiscal year 2014 budget plan.

Both sides have said it would be good to repeal sequestration in the DOD budget plan, set to hit Capitol Hill next week.

However, Democrats and the GOP remain at odds over the administration's demand for additional tax hikes and Republicans' push for deeper spending cuts.

On Monday, DOD Comptroller Bob Hale said that even if a sequestration deal cannot be reached this fiscal year, the Pentagon will not initiate a new round of furloughs.

"We will look for other options. They may not be pleasant, and they may force us into some difficult choices. But we definitely don't want to repeat what we're doing now," Hale said during a Web conference sponsored by the Association of Government Accountants.

"We want to start doing this with more of a scalpel and less of a meat ax. We'll have to get smaller and we'll have to look at some areas where we can take some more risk," he added at the time.