Hagel announces reduction in civilian furloughs

Published: August 6, 2013, 1:44 pm, by Tom Roeder

Chuck Hagel, Dick Durbin, Patrick LeahyA Defense Department decision Tuesday to ease civilian worker furloughs could pump $30 million into Colorado paychecks through Oct. 1.
The move gives 12,000 workers in Colorado an extra week of pay, cutting  an earlier plan to give employees unpaid days off nearly in half.
The change will mean more money in Colorado Springs cash registers, predicted Andy Merritt, who oversees military issues for the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance.
“That’s a great thing for the local economy because of the revenue that would have been lost that won’t be,” Merritt said.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s decision reduces furlough days for thousands of civilian workers at Pikes Peak region bases from 11 to six. Since workers began taking furlough days a month ago, that mean’s the furlough program is nearly over for the bulk of the civilian work force.
The furloughs were designed to cut the Pentagon’s civilian payroll by 20 percent over three months to meet the budget cuts required by sequestration. Sequestration and other planned cuts would carve $1 trillion in Pentagon spending over a decade.
Hagel in July got Congressional permission to move money around Pentagon accounts to reduce furloughs.
“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,” Hagel said.
Hagel said the department saved money by cuts including reduced purchasing and fuel savings.
For civilian workers, it means fatter paychecks through Oct. 1 and more workers in the office.
“It’s going to help in productivity tremendously,” said Air Force Academy spokesman John Van Winkle.
In the new fiscal year that starts in October, workers could face another round of furloughs. Sequestration cuts would eliminate $53 billion in Pentagon spending in 2014, which Defense leaders including Hagel said would result in steep cuts in payroll.Colorado Springs Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn added a provision to a House version of the defense spending bill for 2014 that would block the Pentagon from using furloughs to save money.
The furlough ban was approved in a House committee, but still must get approval from that chamber and the Senate.