WASHINGTON — After weeks of review, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has concluded budget cuts will require most of the department’s civilian employees to be furloughed beginning in July. However, because of other efforts to deal with the shortfall, only half of the 22 days originally envisioned as temporary layoffs will now be necessary.
During a town hall meeting Tuesday at the Mark Center in Alexandria, Va., Hagel told Defense Department employees that most will be required to take 11 furlough days beginning July 8, one day per pay period, through the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30.
When Hagel took the oath of office less than three months ago, post-sequester plans called for 22 furlough days. Congress allowed the department to shift or reprogram some funds in March that cut that number to 14. Now, Hagel said, as maintenance, training, flying hours and ship deployments are increasingly affected, he had no choice but to authorize the furloughs.
In a memo to senior department leaders, Hagel said he had “very reluctantly” concluded that major budgetary shortfalls triggered by a $37 billion cut in defense spending for fiscal year 2013 forced a decision he said he deeply regrets, and one that he acknowledged will disrupt lives and impact DoD operations.
However, he credited congressional passage of a defense appropriation bill in March in part for helping to reduce the number of days civilians would be temporarily laid off by half.
It may be possible later in the year to “knock that back” to an even lower number, the secretary said, but he emphasized that he could not promise such an outcome.
Hagel said the furloughs will affect every military department and almost every agency, with limited exceptions.
“We will except civilians deployed to combat zones and civilians necessary to protect life and property,” he wrote in his memo, adding that others will be excepted if forcing them to stay off the job would not free up money for other needs.
Employees set to be furloughed will begin receiving written notification June 5.