The Department of Defense has lowered the number of days civilian employees will be furloughed over the final months of FY2013.  Speaking at a press conference at the Pentagon yesterday, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said DoD will be able to reduce furlough days from 22 to 14 days, but could not eliminate them.

Furlough notices will be sent to most of DoD’s civilian employees in early May.  Actual furloughs are expected to begin in mid-June.  DoD expects employees to be furloughed for two days per pay period over seven pay periods.  Secretary Hagel said the furloughs should save about $2.5 billion.

The department was able to reduce the number of furlough days due to congressional approval of a FY2013 appropriations bill last week, Hagel said.  The bill provided DoD with an additional $10 billion for O&M accounts and allows $3.5 billion of transfers from lower to higher priority programs (with congressional approval).  Hagel said the DoD Comptroller and the military services are still reviewing the bill and will provide a more detailed briefing when they complete that review.

Hagel said the final appropriations bill fixed some urgent problems and “put some of the dollars back in the right accounts.”  The bill also reduces the O&M shortfall, provides authority for new starts, and lowers the expected sequestration cuts from $46 billion to $41 billion, he said.

However, even with this positive news Hagel pointed out that DoD must address significant problems in FY2013.  The department has to cut $41 billion under sequestration.  Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) are expected to be $7 billion more than projected due to higher costs for bringing troops and equipment home from Afghanistan.  And, the O&M shortfall in FY2013 still will be $22 billion.  As a result, “we’re going to have to prioritize and make some cuts,” he said.  DoD will sharply reduce base operating support, reduce training for non-deployed units, will still require 14 civilian furlough days.

Secretary Hagel said the department will likely have to continue to deal with budget pressures for some time.  Therefore, he has directed JCS Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey and Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter to conduct a comprehensive review to determine how to protect the president’s defense strategic guidance.  He said DoD will continue to try to avoid force structure reductions.  However, he emphasized, “there will be changes, some significant changes.”  “There’s no way around it.”