WASHINGTON -- A day without pay, the first of 11 through September, comes this week for more than 650,000 people who hold civilian jobs with the Defense Department. Officials worry that the Pentagon will be hit even harder by layoffs in 2014 if automatic budget cuts continue as planned.
Roughly 85 percent of the department's nearly 900,000 civilians around the world will be furloughed one day each week for three months, according to the latest statistics provided by the Pentagon. But while officials were able to shift money around to limit the furloughs this year, thousands of civilian, military and contract jobs could be on the chopping block next year.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is expected to provide senators with more details early this week on how the next wave of across-the-board budget cuts will affect the department, said Pentagon press secretary George Little. Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army's chief of staff, has warned that as many as 100,000 more active-duty, National Guard and Reserve soldiers could lose their jobs if Congress allows billions of dollars in automatic budget cuts to continue next year.
Initial hopes that the number of furlough days this year could be reduced have largely been dashed. Instead, talk is focused more on how to slash spending in 2014. The department can force workers to take only 22 furlough days a year, thus the need for possible layoffs.
In the coming weeks, however, civilian employees ranging from top-level policy advisers to school teachers and depot workers will not be answering their phones or responding to emails for one day a week through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.
The monetary impact for individuals varies widely, depending on salaries. But workers will effectively receive a 20 percent salary cut each pay period.