The Pentagon will review the plan to furlough Defense Department civilians for a 22-day period if Congress includes an appropriations bill for the Defense Department in its continuing resolution to fund the government through October.
Defense Department leaders had planned to order a 22-day furlough for Defense Department civilians to be taken before Oct. 1. The 22-day period is the maximum number the Pentagon could order by law in a step that military officials have said was forced upon them by budget cuts associated with sequestration and the current continuing resolution.
However, it appears that Congress will include a $518 billion Pentagon appropriations bill into its next continuing resolution that will follow the one that expires on March 27. If so, Frank Kendall, the top Pentagon weapon's buyer, said Wednesday that the Defense Department would consider reducing the number of days in the furlough.
"I think it may come down some. I'm not sure how much. We don't want to furlough people any more than we have to so we're trying to reduce it if we can," said Kendall, the undersecretary of defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.
He said the furloughs still remain likely because the military is set to absorb budget cuts in 2013 associated with sequestration under the Budget Control Act. Kendall said he hoped the additional funding from the appropriations bill would allow the Pentagon to lower the burden on department civilians.
"If the bill comes through … we have to analyze what our flexibility is and how deep of a problem we have, particularly with readiness and then we'll decide if we can bring that number down," Kendall said after a speech at a conference hosted by the Precision Strike Association.
He did not give specific details on how much of a furlough reduction Pentagon leaders would consider.
Defense Department employees will start receiving furlough notices on Thursday. The department civilians will then have until April 1 to appeal the action.
Furloughs will begin on April 25 and run through Sept. 21. Department civilians will have 11 pay periods or 22 weeks to complete the unpaid furlough. Uniformed servicemembers are exempt from the furlough.
In his speech, Kendall said that furloughing Defense Department employees is the last action Pentagon leaders want to take. However, the Pentagon has had to take drastic measures to cut $46 billion from the budget before Oct. 1 should funding levels remain the same, Kendall said. He said he hopes Congress will act quickly so the Pentagon can at least reduce the amount of furlough days that department employees must take.
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he hopes the Senate will vote on the continuing resolution by the close of business on Wednesday. However, Republicans have blocked votes on the measure as recently as Tuesday evening.
Reid has filed a motion to end debate on the continuing resolution for Wednesday, which if passed would lead to a vote on the bill.
The House has already passed a continuing resolution that includes the Pentagon's appropriations bill.