Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced Tuesday the Pentagon would reduce civilian employee furlough days from 11 down to six after five weeks of sequester-forced belt-tightening.
“I regret the difficulties they and their families had to face during this furlough period,” Hagel wrote in a memo to senior military commanders.
Hagel pointed to Congress and careful budget management for making the reduction possible.
"Congress has approved most of a large reprogramming request that we submitted in mid-May, giving us flexibility to move funds across accounts,” Hagel said. “The military services have been aggressive in identifying ways to hold down costs, and we have been successful in shifting savings (including furlough savings) to meet our highest priority needs.”
Still he warned the military's "readiness remains seriously downgraded" as uncertainties over funding remain.
Non-exempt Defense employees are required to meet their furlough requirements by the end of the fiscal year, but most are expected to have taken their days by August 17.
The American Federation of Government Employees, one of the largest labor organizations for federal employees, applauded the decision.
“AFGE has argued from the start that the Department of Defense furloughs were always the worst possible way for the department to absorb sequestration’s cuts,” said J. David Cox, president of AFGE. “The secretary’s announcement suggests that he has finally realized that furloughs are costly in terms of dollars, readiness and morale.”