Furloughs, hiring freeze on the table as Defense begins sequester planning

Pentagon Press Secretary George Little Pentagon Press Secretary George Little Luis M. Alvarez/AP

The Defense Department has begun planning to implement a fiscal 2013 budget sequester in January, a spokesman confirmed Wednesday.

“We are consulting with the Office of Management and Budget and have been instructed to pursue internal planning on sequestration,” the spokesman, George Little, said at a press availability today, according to a report in American Forces Press Service. “We are at the very start. We don’t have all of the details firmed up. Naturally, we hope very much that sequestration will be avoided. We don’t want to go off the fiscal cliff.”

OMB delivered sequester guidance to the Pentagon this week. Little said the department would have to do some “detailed planning” on the “specific consequences of sequestration.”

In late September, Robert Hale, undersecretary of Defense and chief financial officer, said at a Government Executive event that there would be a “high probability” of both a hiring freeze and furloughs of current employees should Congress allow the sequestration process to go forward.

“There’s a long process with furloughs,” Hale said. “It will adversely affect our missions, not to mention the people involved.”

Defense officials have long warned of the adverse effects of a sequester, and urged members of Congress to come to a budget agreement that would prevent it from going into effect on Jan. 2.

Under sequestration, the Defense budget would be cut by about $500 billion over 10 years, on top of $487 billion in cuts already in the works.

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