The Pentagon's No. 2 civilian told a group of defense reporters Friday that civilian employees furloughs would likely start in April if Congress forced the Defense Department to execute sequestration cuts and extended the continuing resolution in March.
Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter explained that civilians working for the Defense Department will likely have to take one unpaid furlough day per week from April until September -- the end of the fiscal year.
The U.S. military is facing severe budget cuts that could amount to about $52 billion in 2013 when combining the sequestration cuts and the extension of the continuing resolution. Pentagon leaders have until September to make the cuts.
Panetta and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Defense Department will have to start taking actions such as furloughs, reducing travel and laying off temporary employees. Defense officials estimate that civilian furloughs will save about $5 billion.
The Defense Department has about 800,000 civilian employees. Pentagon officials said they don't plan to lay off these positions. However, the Defense Department will eliminate the 46,000 temporary civilian positions.
"This is painful to us," Carter said.
Carter held out hope that Congress would come to an agreement end the CR and avoid sequestration. However, the Pentagon has to take steps now to ease the burden of the potential cuts.