WASHINGTON — It will be a summer of furloughs for civilian defense employees after all.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel confirmed Thursday that the Pentagon is moving forward with the furloughs, although the number of days has been reduced from 22 to 14.
“It's better news, but we're not going to be able to eliminate furloughs,” Hagel said.
Along with the reduced number of unpaid days, the onset of furloughs has been delayed.
Those affected can expect to see notices in early May, with the one-day-a-week furloughs starting in mid- to late June and running through the end of September. Up to 800,000 employees will be affected nationally.
More than 2,800 civilian employees working at Offutt Air Force Base south of Omaha face the potential for furloughs, although some decisions about exempt employees still are pending.
The furloughs, which will save about $2.5 billion, are the result of the across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration.
In a spending bill approved last week, Congress shifted money around in the Defense Department's budget, partly in an effort to alleviate the need for furloughs.
“We still don't have the flexibility that we had hoped to get, but having money in the right accounts is particularly important,” Hagel said of Congress' action.
Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., said through a spokesman that he was disappointed that furloughs could not be reduced further or eliminated altogether.
Top military leaders had previously indicated that Congress' action would significantly reduce the need for furloughs, and a reduction from 22 to 14 days is “not significant,” Terry said.
A senior Pentagon official said Thursday that lawmakers should not be surprised at the continued need for furloughs given other competing demands for military dollars, such as maintaining overseas war efforts.
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