The Pentagon announced Tuesday that it would reduce its furloughs of civilian employees by nearly half, from 11 days to six days.
“This has been one of the most volatile and uncertain budget cycles the Department of Defense has ever experienced,” Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said, warning that automatic budget cuts — if not reversed by Congress — would yield even costlier consequences next year.
The 11 furlough days were meant to save an estimated $1.8 billion this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. But with hiring freezes, layoffs of temporary workers and reduction in costs elsewhere, the Pentagon has been able to cut down the amount of unpaid leave that civilian employees were forced to take.
“When sequestration took effect on March 1, DoD faced shortfalls of more than $30 billion in its budget for day-to-day operating costs,” Hagel said. “At that point we faced the very real possibility of unpaid furloughs for civilian employees of up to 22 days.”
Hagel pointed to Congress’ cooperation in allowing funds to be transferred between different budgetary accounts as being key to avoiding the larger number of furlough days originally planned.
An estimated 680,000 civilian employees have been subject to furloughs, which began five weeks ago.
The easing of furloughs will come as a relief to many of those employees, but are not expected to yield significant economic relief for the Washington area. Because the Pentagon’s ability to reduce furlough days have come from cutbacks elsewhere, the negative effects of the Defense Department budgetary restraint largely remain in the region.