WASHINGTON, March 28 U.S. Defense Department
civilian employees will have to take 14 days of unpaid leave
this year instead of the 22 previously planned after Congress
adjusted Pentagon funding in a measure signed by the president
this week, a U.S. official said on Thursday.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel decided on Wednesday to reduce the
number of furlough days facing most of the Pentagon's nearly
800,000 civilian employees to 14 from 22.
The Pentagon had been set to send out furlough notices to
employees last week, but delayed the move after Congress passed
a measure that funded the government through the end of the
fiscal year on Sept. 30. The department said it needed two weeks
to see how the measure affected Pentagon finances.
The Defense Department is facing more than $40 billion in
budget cuts this year under a process known as sequestration
after Congress and the White House failed to reach an agreement
on alternative ways to reduce deficits. The new cuts went into
effect on March 1.
The Pentagon budget also has been squeezed by a temporary
funding mechanism that left it with a shortfall in the main
account used to pay civilian personnel.
The funding measure signed by Obama this week kept the
budget cuts under sequestration intact but allocated more money
to the account used to pay civilians, letting the Pentagon
reduce the amount of unpaid leave.
The Pentagon has not announced how many of its nearly
800,000 civilians will have to take unpaid leave, but officials
have predicted it could be in the range of 80 percent.
Officials have said civilians supporting the war effort
would not be affected, but a final decision on how many other
essential personnel would be exempted has not been announced.