DOD delays furloughs

Civilian DOD employees fearing furlough notices will have to wait a little longer as officials watch the progress of a funding bill.

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The Defense Department has decided to delay the issue of furlough notices pending an assessment of budget legislation currently making its way through Congress.

Notices to DOD civilian employees were due to go out as soon as this week, with furloughs to begin in late April. Those notices now will be pushed back by at least two weeks, according to George Little, Pentagon spokesman. Versions of the continuing resolution have passed both houses of Congress. The government could shut down on March 27 if it does not become law by then.

"This delay will allow the department to carefully analyze the impact of pending continuing resolution legislation on the department's resources," Little said in a released statement. "We have not made any decisions on whether or not the total number of planned furlough days for fiscal 2013 will change as a result of this delay."

DOD officials estimate furlough notices will go out around April 5, Navy Cmdr. Leslie Hull-Ryde, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said in a Pentagon release. While the proposed spending bill could change the way in which furloughs could be carried out, she cautioned that nothing is certain.

"The legislation could have some impact on the overall number of furlough days, but no decisions have been reached, especially since the legislation hasn’t been signed into law," Hull-Ryde said. "The number of furlough days at this point remains at 22."

The furloughs were officially announced on Feb. 20 when Pentagon leadership notified Congress of plans to furlough nearly 800,000 DOD civilian employees, launching a mandated 45-day countdown to when the furloughs could begin. The furloughs are part of $46 billion in cuts leveled on the military as part of sequestration.

The new spending bill may offer DOD officials some flexibility in how those cuts are made. While the amount will not change, the legislation adds more than $10 billion to operations and maintenance accounts that are quickly dwindling, leading to reduced training, flying time, steaming days and other military activities that top officials warned could hinder readiness.

The delay now buys Pentagon officials some time to determine how the obligated funding will most effectively be spent, sources said.

"We believe the delay is a responsible step to take in order to assure our civilian employees that we do not take lightly the prospect of furloughs and the resulting decrease in employee pay," Little said.

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