Pentagon officials are reconsidering how to implement furloughs of 800,000 civilian workers since Congress last week passed a continuing resolution that provides an additional $10 billion for defense spending through September.
“We realize we’re going to have to make some decisions quickly on civilian furloughs,” Pentagon press secretary George Little told reporters Wednesday. “Given the recently passed [continuing resolution], we’re working through the options. The CR doesn’t solve all of our problems to be sure, but furloughs are a consideration … once I have a final decision from the [defense] secretary, I’ll let you know.”
The Pentagon had been set to cut $46 billion from its budget by Sept. 30 before the continuing resolution was approved. It had planned to require civilian workers to take one day of unpaid leave each week for 22 weeks.
Automatic spending cuts that began March 1 — called sequestration — are still in effect. It is unclear how the additional $10 billion provided by the continuing resolution would be used.
Previously, the department was scheduled to take a hit of $46 billion through September 30 under automatic budget cuts and a previous continuing resolution that extended 2012 funding levels through 2013, but the continuing resolution passed last week gives the department more money and more flexibility in how to spend money during the remainder of the year — possibly reducing the need for civilian furloughs of 22 days this year.
“As a general matter, sequestration requires across-the-board cuts. The CR provided an additional $10 billion or $11 billion back into the department’s coffers. So we’re trying to figure out how we allocated that … and it is conceivable that furloughs could be part of that equation,” Mr. Little said.
“I think it does provide us additional flexibility. I don’t think we’re required to allocate that in a peanut butter manner across different accounts,” he said.