More than 700,000 Defense Department civilian personnel will now be subject to 14 furlough days from June through September rather than 22, and several categories of workers will be excepted from the payless days off, senior Defense officials said Thursday.
"We're still going through the exceptions" and no decisions have yet been made on how many workers will be eligible for exemptions from the furloughs, said a senior official who spoke on grounds of anonymity.
The speculation had been that teachers, mental health workers and intelligence personnel might rate exceptions, but the official stressed repeatedly that "we have not made any final decisions on who will be exempted."
At a Pentagon briefing, two senior Defense officials said that notices on the furloughs, which have already been delayed for two weeks, would now go out in early May. Those receiving the furlough notices would then have seven days to reply. The 14 days of furloughs would begin in mid-June or late June, the officials said.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said earlier that "We are going to be able to reduce and delay these furloughs but not eliminate them" with the $10 billion in funding that the continuing budget resolution passed by Congress last week allowed DOD to shift from other accounts into the operations and maintenance accounts, which pay civilian salaries.
Hagel said the furlough days were being reduced to 14 from the 22 that had been anticipated under cost-cutting mandates of the legislative process called sequestration. "It's good news," Hagel said, but only "good news from where we were" originally under sequestration.
Hagel said the savings from 22 days of furloughs would have been about $4 billion, and would now amount to about $2.5 billion with 14 days. Twenty-two furlough days would have amounted to about a 20 percent pay cut from May through September.
Hagel said that the continuing resolution had also reduced the amount of money DOD must cut through September at the end of the current fiscal year from $46 billion to $41 billion, but he complained that DOD still lacked the flexibility to move money around between different accounts to lessen the impact of the cuts.
The result was that he would have to cut more deeply than he would prefer in areas that impact on military families, such as base operations, Hagel said.
At a Pentagon briefing with Hagel, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the bottom line of the budget cuts was that "we will have to trade future readiness for current operations. We can do it, but that's the uncomfortable truth."