Pentagon cuts furloughs to 11 days

The Pentagon is reducing the number of furlough days for most of its civilian employees to 11 days, according to a senior Defense official.

The number of furlough days that the majority of the Pentagon’s 800,000 civilians will be required to take in 2013 was cut to 11 from 14, the second time the Defense Department has decided to chop down its civilian furloughs.

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When sequestration was initially set to take effect in March, the Pentagon had warned it would furlough civilians as many as 22 days this year.

The civilians will be required to take the furloughs between June and September, the end of the fiscal year.

The furloughs are being ordered to help the Pentagon deal with cuts of roughly $41 billion under sequestration. The furloughs are one of the most visible ways that the automatic budget cuts are hitting military bases across the country.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has said he wanted to limit the furloughs to cause as little pain as possible to the department’s civilian workforce. He is expected to announce the change later Tuesday at a town hall in Alexandria, Va.

Hagel will also allow the military services to expand the types of employees exempt from the furloughs, including at shipyards and depots, according to The Associated Press, which first reported the furlough reduction.

Navy officials have said in recent weeks that they thought it was possible they could avoid furloughs altogether.

The Pentagon will also exempt civilian employees in combat zones and some working at overseas bases. Service members are not facing furloughs because military personnel accounts are exempt from sequester.

The Pentagon has reduced its number of furlough days as the year has gone on, and it has received greater flexibility to move its funds around. When the Pentagon was facing the prospect of sequester and a yearlong continuing resolution in March, it had warned it would inflict the maximum 22 days of furloughs on its civilian employees.

The number was reduced after Congress passed a full-year Defense appropriations bill that gave the military flexibility to move $10 billion into its operations and maintenance accounts, which faced shortfalls.

The Pentagon is now readying a $7.5 billion reprogramming request that will help it manage the across-the-board cuts under sequestration.