WASHINGTON -- Pentagon officials plan to cut the furloughs of civilian workers to 14 days from 22, easing the pain for as many as 750,000 employees, according to a U.S. official.
Additional money provided by Congress in a defense spending bill for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30 has allowed the Pentagon to scale back the amount of unpaid leave. The Defense Department's initial plan to cope with the automatic cuts known as sequestration called for putting civilian workers on furlough for one day a week over 22 weeks.
The furloughs, which had been slated to begin next month, won't happen until June, said the official, who asked not to be identified because the decision hasn't been announced.
The change is a sign that Pentagon cuts may not be as dire as initially outlined, at least for this year.
The Pentagon will have to slice as much as $500 billion from planned spending over the next nine years unless Congress and President Barak Obama agree on an alternative deficit- reduction package. More than $40 billion still must be cut this year.
The new defense spending bill, which provides about $10 billion in additional operations and maintenance funding and more flexibility in applying the reductions, has triggered a review of the department's budget-cutting plans.
Those plans included cuts to Army training, reduced flying hours for Air Force pilots, and the suspension of most operations for four Navy air wings. The Navy also postponed the deployment of an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf region.