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Pentagon reduces unpaid leave for civilian workers to 14 days

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel speaks at his news conference at the Pentagon in Washington March 15, 2013. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel speaks at his news conference at the Pentagon in Washington March 15, 2013. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Defense Department civilian employees will have to take 14 days of unpaid leave this year instead of the 22 previously planned after Congress adjusted Pentagon funding in a measure signed by the president this week, an official said on Thursday.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel decided on Wednesday to reduce the number of furlough days facing most of the Pentagon's nearly 800,000 civilian employees to 14 from 22.

The Pentagon had been set to send out furlough notices to employees last week, but delayed the move after Congress passed a measure that funded the government through the end of the fiscal year on September 30. The department said it needed two weeks to see how the measure affected Pentagon finances.

The Defense Department is facing more than $40 billion in budget cuts this year under a process known as sequestration after Congress and the White House failed to reach an agreement on alternative ways to reduce deficits. The new cuts went into effect on March 1.

The Pentagon budget also has been squeezed by a temporary funding mechanism that left it with a shortfall in the main account used to pay civilian personnel.

The funding measure signed by Obama this week kept the budget cuts under sequestration intact but allocated more money to the account used to pay civilians, letting the Pentagon reduce the amount of unpaid leave.

The Pentagon has not announced how many of its nearly 800,000 civilians will have to take unpaid leave, but officials have predicted it could be in the range of 80 percent.

Officials have said civilians supporting the war effort would not be affected, but a final decision on how many other essential personnel would be exempted has not been announced.

(Reporting by David Alexander; Editiing by Vicki Allen)

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