Pentagon Scales Back Furloughs, Calls for Additional Flexibility

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Most Defense Department civilians can expect 14 furlough days this year instead of the previously planned 22 days, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel confirmed Thursday, adding that the department needs additional flexibility to respond to across-the-board budget cuts from sequestration.

Hagel said a spending measure signed by President Obama this week would fix some but not all of Defense’s “urgent problems.” The continuing resolution gave Defense managers greater flexibility by shifting $10 billion into the department’s operation and maintenance accounts.

“We are going to be able to reduce and delay these furloughs but not eliminate furloughs,” Hagel said.

Affected employees had been scheduled to be furloughed approximately one day a week, and the mandatory unpaid leave now won’t begin before June, according to AP.

The Army and Air Force have already announced several classes of employees that are excepted from furloughs, including intelligence workers and public health and safety personnel.

Hagel said Defense must now find a way to cut $41 billion by the end of fiscal 2013, instead of the $46 billion on the hook for before the latest spending bill. He said 14 days of civilian furloughs would save $2.5 billion, down from the $4 billion that 22 furlough days would have saved.

“We still don’t have the flexibility that we had hoped to get,” Hagel said. “Having money in the right accounts is particularly important.”

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey said Defense had gone through approximately 80 percent of the operation and maintenance budget for fiscal 2013 and anticipated that some shortfalls in the military’s readiness may occur. Asked to identify specific areas in which readiness faced harm, Dempsey said the department needed two more weeks to isolate individual instances.

“We’ll be trying to recover lost readiness at the same time we’re trying to reshape the force,” Dempsey said. “We can’t do this without budget certainty.”

In light of the tight budget environment, Hagel said he was directing Dempsey and Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to review the department’s strategic interests, prioritize threats and assess “the capabilities required to deal with” both anticipated and unanticipated threats.  

“Biggest issue is dealing with department’s people, and mission, and how these numbers affect all of that,” Hagel said.

Federal employee unions were not buying into the Hagel’s reasoning. Defense is not taking full advantage of the added flexibility and "needs to eliminate furloughs entirely," the American Federation of Government Employees said in a statement Thursday.

"The department's leaders have always had the flexibility to impose budget cuts from sequestration in any way they chose," AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. stated. "Although reducing the number of furlough days from 22 to 14 shows that they're listening, they still haven't gotten the whole message."

The International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers on Wednesday asked Hagel in a letter to cancel all the department’s planned furloughs. 

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.