* Up to 800,000 civilian workers face 22 days unpaid leave
* Notification to Congress required 45 days in advance
* Prompted by budget cuts, move would save $5 billion
By David Alexander
WASHINGTON, Feb 19 The Pentagon is expected to
notify Congress this week that it plans to put some 800,000
civilian employees on unpaid leave for up to 22 days in the
coming months if a new $46 billion budget cut goes into effect
on March 1, a defense official said on Tuesday.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said
congressional notification could come as early as Wednesday.
Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told reporters in late
January that congressional notification of the furloughs would
come "in the next few weeks."
The Defense Department, which is considering having workers
take off one day per week for 22 weeks, is required to notify
Congress 45 days before furloughing employees. Individual
employee notification is required 30 days in advance and is
expected to take place in the coming weeks, the official said.
With the department nearly five months into its fiscal year,
it is running out of time to provide congressional notification
and still be able to carry out the plan, which Carter said would
save as much as $5 billion.
"Obviously this is a terrible thing to have to do to our
employees and to the mission," Carter told reporters in January.
"But it's necessary because it'll save $5 billion and we have to
find that money."
The unpaid leave would not affect uniformed personnel, whose
jobs and pay have been exempted from the cuts by President
But Carter said 44 percent of Defense Department civilians
are veterans and most do not work at a desk in Washington but
carry out other functions in communities across the country.
The Pentagon is facing $46 billion in across-the-board
budget cuts on March 1 under a mechanism known as sequestration
unless Congress takes action to delay them.
The rigid cuts, which hit programs equally regardless of
strategic importance, were ordered in the Budget Control Act of
2011 in an effort to force lawmakers to negotiate an alternative
package of reductions to curb the government's trillion dollar
deficits. But Congress failed to reach a deal.
The cuts - which total about $500 billion over a decade -
were supposed to go into force on Jan. 2, but lawmakers delayed
them until March 1 in order to have more time to try to achieve
a deal. Little headway has been made since then.
The reductions come as the Pentagon is already trying to
implement $487 billion in cuts to projected spending over a
decade that were also part of the Budget Control Act.
Pentagon officials accepted those cuts and integrated them
into a new defense strategy unveiled last year, but they have
expressed alarm over the additional reductions, saying they will
cause a readiness crisis this year and do damage over the long
Some analysts are skeptical, however, saying Pentagon
officials are exaggerating the likely effects of the cuts in an
effort to pressure Congress into taking steps to stop the