WASHINGTON -- The Defense Department said Thursday that it is delaying planned furlough notices to almost 800,000 civilian employees while officials analyze whether the stopgap budget Congress passed can avert some days of unpaid leave.
"This delay will allow the Department to carefully analyze the impact of pending Continuing Resolution legislation on the Department's resources," says an internal memo sent to employees from Comptroller Robert Hale and Jessica Wright, acting undersecretary for personnel and readiness.
Furlough notices, which were scheduled to go out Friday, will be delayed until April 5, officials said.
Defense officials have been saying for weeks that the across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration would force them to furlough civilian employees for up to 22 days between April and the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. Unions representing federal defense employees have been negotiating with management over conditions of the furloughs, which would have begun one day a week in late April.
But the measure Congress gave final approval to Thursday funding government operations until the end of the fiscal year gives Defense officials some flexibility to carry out the cuts. That could change the picture for the military, which is absorbing half of this year's $85 billion reduction.
The overall size of the cuts will remain the same, but the Pentagon will add $10.4 billion to its operations and maintenance budget, where shortfalls have led to plans to curtail training, suspend some maintenance work and other steps that commanders feared would take a toll on force readiness. Also, the agency will be able to move forward with new investments and contracts that had been held up.
Hale and Wright cautioned that the new budget, which still needs President Barack Obama's signature, "could have some impact on the number of furlough days, but no decisions have been reached."
"In no way does this obviate the need for furloughs," Defense Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Robbins said, "But we are carefully analyzing the impact of the budget on department resources."