DOD furloughs shortened from 11 to six days
DOD furloughs that civilian employees have had to bear because of budgetary pressures were shortened by the Pentagon from 11 to six days. As a result, the final DOD furlough day for most workers will be next week.
The Pentagon moved Tuesday to ease the pain of mandatory, unpaid DOD furloughs that civilian employees have had to bear for a month because of budgetary pressures, cutting the number of days off from 11 to six.Skip to next paragraph
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Defense officials said the Pentagon found sufficient savings in the final months of the current fiscal year to lessen the burden on those who have had to take a day off a week without pay since early July. As a result, the final furlough day for most workers will be next week.
Altogether, officials said they were able to identify about $1.5 billion in new savings. About $1 billion of that was used to buy back the five furlough days and another $500 million is being used to restore money for Air Force training and flight hours, along with training for about six Army brigade combat teams.
But even as they eased some of the more painful budget cuts, defense officials told reporters Tuesday that the struggles have drastically demoralized the workforce, created difficult budget uncertainties and eroded military training and readiness to the extent that it will take months to recover.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel approved the final furlough numbers this week after meeting with top leaders. Officials discussed this situation only if granted anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about it publicly.
"I want to thank our civilian workforce for their patience and continued dedication to our mission during these extraordinarily tough times," Hagel said in a letter to top military and defense officials Tuesday. "I regret the difficulties they and their families had to face during this furlough period."
The decision came as about 650,000 civilian workers began their fifth week of furloughs, which have riled department employees and prompted many to complain directly to Hagel during his visits to military bases in recent weeks.
One major change, officials said, is that teachers and support staff in Defense Department schools who were scheduled to begin theirfurloughs at the end of August will now be completely exempt from the unpaid days off and the school year will begin as normal.
Hagel has been saying that budget people were trying to find savings to shorten the furlough time. But officials also cautioned that the savings are for this year only, and won't affect likely budget cuts in 2014, if Congress doesn't act to avoid automatic, across-the-board cuts slated for next year.
The 11 furlough days were expected to save roughly $2 billion.
Officials said the savings are the result of a number of things, including penny-pinching by the military services and Congress' decision to give the Pentagon more flexibility in moving money around between accounts. They indicated that budget crunchers moved money from lower priority accounts in order to free up money to reduce the furloughs and provide additional resources to other programs that directly affect the military's readiness for combat.