WASHINGTON – As the Department of Defense, or DoD, enters the furlough period, the department will concentrate on the core mission of defending the United States and its interests, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said Monday.
“That’s where our center of gravity is during this furlough period,” Little said.
Because of sequestration, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel made the difficult decision to furlough about 85 percent of DoD civilian employees one day a week through the end of the fiscal year, a total of 11 days, the press secretary said. “My assumption is the vast majority of that population is on furlough at least one day this week,” Little said.
Little estimated the action will save the department $1.8 billion by the end of September.
Some missions in the department will be impacted, he said. “We’re very clear with our own staff that there will be some impact, and we expect other offices to have similar impacts,” the press secretary said.
What happens in fiscal 2014 remains up in the air, Little said in response to a reporter’s question about the possibility of future layoffs. “We’re getting ahead of ourselves talking about layoffs at this stage,” he said. “Right now we’re in the furlough period, and no decisions have been reached about what may happen going forward.”
Much of what will happen depends on the government’s ability to move beyond sequestration, Little said. “[Hagel] has been clear that he would like for there to be a deal on sequestration, so we can lift this burden off of all our employees in the department,” Little said.
Sequestration “was an unfortunate mechanism designed to avoid unfortunate consequences. We’re seeing some of those consequences already in regards to military training and readiness,” the press secretary said.
“It’s unfortunate we’re in this period but we’re going to muscle through it best we can,” he added.