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Eleven furlough days for DOD employees

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced Tuesday that the Defense Department would furlough most of its civilian employees for up to 11 days.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced Tuesday that the Defense Department would furlough most of its civilian employees for up to 11 days.

"After extensive review of all options with the DOD’s senior military and civilian leadership on how we address this budget crisis, today I am announcing that I have decided to direct furloughs of up to 11 days for most of the department's civilian personnel," Hagel said in a message to all DOD personnel. "I have made this decision very reluctantly, because I know that the furloughs will disrupt lives and impact DOD operations. I recognize the significant hardship this places on you and your families."

Hagel said that sequester cuts, together with higher than expected wartime operating costs, have left the department more than $30 billion short in the operation and maintenance (O&M) accounts used to pay most civilian employees, maintain readiness and respond to contingencies.

Hagel said DOD has been "doing everything possible" to reduce the budget shortage, including cutting facilities maintenance, shifting funds to O&M accounts, and trimming back non-essential programs.

“Still, these steps have not been enough to close the shortfall," Hagel said in the statement. “After required notifications, we will begin the furlough period on July 8 at the rate of one furlough day per week for most personnel. We plan to continue these furloughs through the end of the current fiscal year. If our budgetary situation permits us to end furloughs early, I would strongly prefer to do so. That is a decision I will make later in the year."

While Hagel noted that 11 days is half the number of furlough days that were originally planned, that observation did little to assuage the national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, J. David Cox. Sr., who called the furloughs "absolutely outrageous."

"It is a decision to reduce productivity and raise, not lower, costs in the department. It is also a decision to ignore the efforts put forth by numerous DOD components and agencies to devise methods for absorbing sequestration cuts without causing the negative consequences of furloughs,"Cox said in a statement."It is well known that the Army spent $2.5 billion more on service contracts than it was allowed under law, a sum that could have been, and more important, should have been used to offset furloughs not only in the Army, but in the rest of DOD as well."

Cox maintained that most DOD employees "live paycheck-to-paycheck, and are barely able to pay their bills without the additional challenge of furloughs."

“The administration’s decision to impose such enormous economic pain on its own workforce, while continuing to lavish billions in new and unnecessary spending on wealthy contractors, is utterly shameful,” he said.

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