Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced at a Pentagon briefing today that civilian furloughs will be shorter than predicted before sequestration.
Pentagon officials had warned they were taking a double hit from sequestration and a continuing resolution that bound the hands of defense officials to allocate money within the department. Hagel stressed they got some but not all they were seeking in the CR: money was allocated to better places, but they still didn’t get the flexibility with funds desired.
“We are going to be able to reduce and delay these furloughs, but not eliminate furloughs, and that right now looks as though we’ll be able to go from an original estimate of 22 days to 14. That, we think, will save the department anywhere from — I think the original estimates were around $4 billion, and we can probably plan on about $2.5 billion,” Hagel said.
“What the continuing resolution has done for us, it did fix some of our urgent problems. In particular, it put some of the dollars back in the right accounts. We still don’t have the flexibility that we had hoped to get, but having money in the right accounts is particularly important.”
The secretary added that in the operations and maintenance account, “we’re going to be short at least $22 billion for F.Y. ’13.”
“I would say, also, this is an imperfect process,” Hagel added. “And any decisions we make — and we’ll have to make some and will make some — will be within the context of that imperfection.”
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said “the uncomfortable truth is that we’re — on Monday, we’ll be halfway through the fiscal year, and we’ll be 80 percent spent in our operating funds.”
“We don’t yet have a satisfactory solution to that shortfall, and we’re doing everything we can to stretch our readiness out,” Dempsey said. “To do this, we will have to trade at some level and to some degree our future readiness for current operations. It will cost us more eventually in both money and time to recover in the years to come. We’ll be trying to recover loss readiness at the time that we’re trying to reshape the force.”
“We can’t afford excess equipment. We can’t afford excess facilities. We have to reform how we buy weapons and services. We have to reduce redundancy,” the chairman added. “And we’ve got to change at some level our compensation structure. Without that kind of reform, we will lose the human capital, the important talented young men and women, and we’ll lose combat capability. But with that kind of reform, we have it within us to stay strong, despite declining dollars and increasing risk. If our elected leaders can help us with full flexibility, our people will do the rest.”