Most of the US Defense Department’s civilian employees will be forced to take 11 days of unpaid leave before the end of September to help the Pentagon slash its spending, Defense officials said today.
Automatic spending cuts known as the sequester require the Defense Department to trim $37 billion from its budget through the Sept. 30 end of the current fiscal year.
At a townhall meeting with Defense employees in Virginia this afternoon, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said civilian workers must take one unpaid leave day a week starting July 8, until the end of the fiscal year.
Defense officials will track spending, he said, and "if our budgetary situation permits us to end furloughs early, I would strongly prefer to do so."
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Some 680,000 of the Defense Department’s 800,000 civilian employees will be furloughed.
The 15 percent exempt from unpaid leave includes tens of thousands of civilian workers at Navy shipyards as well as civilian intelligence workers in the National Intelligence Program, civilians working in war zones and civilians not paid through congressional funding, the Associated Press reported.
Civilian intelligence workers in the Military Intelligence Program, including Special Operations Command and the Army, Air Force and Navy intelligence offices, will get furloughed.
The furlough duration is shorter than workers feared it would be in February and March, when officials proposed unpaid leave that lasted 22 days or 14 days, Reuters reported.
Hagel “tried to reduce the number even more,” a senior defense official told Politico. “But after several rounds of meetings on sequestration and asking for different furlough scenarios, he decided that we really don't have a choice but to save money for the remainder of FY13 to support military readiness, operations and training.”
"I have made this decision very reluctantly, because I know that the furloughs will disrupt lives and impact DoD operations," Hagel told employees. "I recognize the significant hardship this places on you and your families."