Workforce

DOD furlough decision expected soon

Chuck Hagel at budget hearing

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is expected to reach a decision soon on the number of furlough days DOD employees will have to take. (File photo)

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is expected to reach a decision soon on the number of furlough days DOD employees will have to take – or whether to furlough at all.

The decision will come once a thorough review of the Defense Department budget is completed, a Pentagon official said.

"We're in the middle of a $37 billion to $40 billion cut over a six-month period, and we need to look closely at that, but I expect him to make a decision soon," George Little, Pentagon press secretary, told reporters on May 1.

The update comes as the target date to release furlough notices in early May approaches, and as services debate whether they actually need to furlough employees in order to make the budget cuts required by sequestration.

"There are different pockets of money in different places for each of the services," Little said. "To be totally straightforward, the math does work for some services to avoid some furloughs, at a minimum. For other services, it is harder."

DOD Comptroller Robert Hale signaled in an April 11 hearing on Capitol Hill that the preference is for a furlough decision to be instituted department-wide.

"We would like to see consistency and fairness, because if we're going to have to jump into this pool, we'd like to jump together," Hale said.

That was an idea Little echoed as he voiced frustration regarding the across-the-board cuts, which allow for little flexibility in determining spending priorities.

"The across-the-board cut is forcing some tough decisions," Little said. "The goal of the furlough so far...is to ensure, at least on this issue, there is some consistency."

Earlier this week, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Pentagon officials still are seeking ways to avoid furloughs if possible.

Hagel has "challenged us to keep looking...I don't know if we're going to find the opportunity to avoid it entirely, but we would certainly like to do so," Dempsey said, according to the Washington Post. "It's heart wrenching that we're out at the point where we have to furlough those civilian counterparts who work just as hard as their uniformed counterparts."

DOD's leaders have already reduced the number of expected furlough days from 22 to 14.

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.

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