News Column

Defense Furloughs Reduced to 14 Days: Hagel

March 28, 2013

Ed Friedrich, Kitsap Sun, Bremerton, Wash.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (file photo)
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (file photo)

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel confirmed today that the number of furlough days for civilian defense workers will be reduced from 22 to 14.

He also said they'd be delayed, but not until when. They were originally planned to begin April 26. He said furlough days would save the Department of Defense about $2.5 billion, down from the $4 billion from the longer period.

"These numbers are floating, but it's good news from where we were two weeks ago," he said.

During a news conference at the Pentagon alongside Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Hagel also said adjustments are the result of a new continuing resolution passed by Congress last week.

"What the continuing resolution has done for us is, it did fix some of our urgent problems," he said. "In particular, it put some of the dollars bacon the right accounts. We still don't have the flexibility we had hoped to get, but having money in the right accounts is particularly important. What that does is it reduces a shortfall at least in the operations budget.

Defense also won't have to cut as much as the result of sequestration, he said, down from $46 billion to $41 billion.

"I gives us the authority to start new programs and military construction, which is significant," he said.

Still, the operations and maintenance account will be short at least $22 billion through the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, he said.

"We're going to have to deal with that reality, prioritize and make some cuts and do what we've got to do."

Hagel said he directed Dempsey and other service chiefs to review the entire defense framework, starting with determining strategic interest and how to protect them, and prioritizing threats and the capabilities to deal with them.

"There will be changes, some significant changes," he said. "There's no way around it."

"We don't have any choice but to get through a very significant analysis, an intensive review of everything. What do we really need? How do we protect those strategic interests?"

Source: (c)2013 the Kitsap Sun (Bremerton, Wash.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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