WASHINGTON — The Pentagon will cut the number of unpaid furlough days civilians will be forced to take in the next several months from 22 to 14, defense officials said Wednesday, reducing the impact of automatic budget cuts on as many as 700,000 workers.
According to defense officials, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel made the decision Wednesday as military service chiefs and defense leaders continued trying to prioritize how they will allocate the more than $10 billion that Congress, in an attempt to take some of the sting out of the across-the-board budget cuts, shifted to operations and maintenance accounts. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter ahead of the public announcement, the Associated Press reported.
While some of the military services initially considered eliminating the furloughs altogether, senior leaders argued that since not all the services could do that, it would be better to treat all civilians across the defense department equally.
The military had been faced with some $43 billion in automatic, across-the-board cuts that kicked in March 1, but lawmakers passed a massive spending bill last week that shifted money around to give the Defense Department more flexibility in how it found the savings.
Initially, civilians would have been required to take one day a week off without pay for 22 weeks, through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30 — a 20 percent pay cut for more than five months.
Under the new plan, the unpaid furloughs would not begin until mid June.