The Associated Press reported today that the Pentagon is moving to reduce the number of unpaid furlough days for civilian employees from 11 to 6.
The 11 furlough days were expected to save about $2 billion. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a statement that thanks to cost-cutting efforts and assistance from Congress, DoD was able to successfully make this reduction in furlough days.
Hagel detailed the history of the situation and efforts to get to the point of only 6 furlough days, saying:
When sequestration took effect on March 1, DoD faced shortfalls of more than $30 billion in its budget for day-to-day operating costs because of sequestration and problems with wartime funding. At that point we faced the very real possibility of unpaid furloughs for civilian employees of up to 22 days.
As early as January, DoD leaders began making painful and far reaching changes to close this shortfall: civilian hiring freezes, layoffs of temporary workers, significant cuts in facilities maintenance, and more. We also sharply cut training and maintenance. The Air Force stopped flying in many squadrons, the Navy kept ships in port, and the Army cancelled training events. These actions have seriously reduced military readiness.
By early May, even after taking these steps, we still faced day-to-day budgetary shortfalls of $11 billion. At that point I decided that cutting any deeper into training and maintenance would jeopardize our core readiness mission and national security, which is why I announced furloughs of 11 days.
Hoping to be able to reduce furloughs, we submitted a large reprogramming proposal to Congress in May, asking them to let us move funds from acquisition accounts into day-to-day operating accounts. Congress approved most of this request in late July, and we are working with them to meet remaining needs. We are also experiencing less than expected costs in some areas, such as transportation of equipment out of Afghanistan. Where necessary, we have taken aggressive action to transfer funds among services and agencies. And the furloughs have saved us money.
As a result of these management initiatives, reduced costs, and reprogramming from Congress, we have determined that we can make some improvements in training and readiness and still meet the sequestration cuts. The Air Force has begun flying again in key squadrons, the Army has increased funding for organizational training at selected units, and the Navy has restarted some maintenance and ordered deployments that otherwise would not have happened. While we are still depending on furlough savings, we will be able to make up our budgetary shortfall in this fiscal year with fewer furlough days than initially announced.
He cautioned, however, that fiscal challenges still lie ahead for DoD, noting that if Congress does not change the Budget Control Act, DoD will be forced to cut an additional $52 billion in FY 2014, starting on October 1.