Thursday, March 28, 2013

Hagel Announces Fewer Furlough Days for Civilians

Hagel Announces Fewer Furlough Days for Civilians

By Nick Simeone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 28, 2013 - The Defense Department has revised from
22 to 14 the number of days hundreds of thousands of civilian
employees could be furloughed this year because of the budget
sequester, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced today.

In addition, a senior Defense Department official speaking on
background told reporters the start of the furloughs will be delayed
until mid-to-late June, after more than 700,000 department employees
receive furlough notices now set to go out in early May. Furloughs
would happen over seven two-week pay periods until the end of
September, when the current fiscal year ends, the senior official
said, with employees likely to be told not to come to work for two
days during each of those pay periods.

Department officials say they are still working to determine which
employees might be exempted.

Hagel characterized the reduced furloughs as well as a revised
estimate of sequestration's impact on the defense budget as good news.
The changes follow Congressional approval last week of a defense
appropriations bill that prevented an additional six billion dollars
in cuts, ordered under sequestration, from taking effect.

"It reduces a shortfall at least in the operations budget," the
secretary told reporters at a Pentagon news conference. "We came out
better than we went in under the sequester, where it looks like our
number is $41 billion [in cuts] now versus the $46 billion."

But despite a Congressional reprieve, Hagel said the Pentagon is still
going to be short at least $22 billion for operations and maintenance,
"and that means we are going to have to prioritize and make some cuts
and do what we've got to do," including making sharp reductions in
base operating support and training for nondeployed units.

More critical in the long run, he said, is how budget cuts will affect
readiness and the department's overall mission. Because of that
concern, he said he has directed Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter
and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff, to conduct an intensive department-wide review of U.S.
strategic interests including how to protect the nation with fewer
resources. "How do we prioritize the threats and then the capabilities
required to deal with threats?" he said. "There will be some
significant changes, there's no way around it."

Dempsey said the department has already exhausted 80 percent of its
operating funds halfway through the fiscal year and characterized the
current budget situation as "not the deepest, but the steepest decline
in our budget ever," and warned it will affect military readiness into
the future.

"We will have to trade at some level and to some degree our future
readiness for current operations," the chairman said. He called on
elected leaders to give the Pentagon the budget flexibility it needs
to carry out institutional reforms.

"We can't afford excess equipment," Dempsey said. "We can't afford
excess facilities. We have to reform how we buy weapons and services.
We have to reduce redundancy. And we've got to change, at some level,
our compensation structure."
Chuck Hagel
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey


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