COLUMBIA, SC — The U.S. Department of Defense has lowered to 14 days from 22 the number of days that it expects hundreds of thousands of civilian workers across the nation to be furloughed by the end of the year.
In addition, the beginning of those furloughs could be delayed from this month to mid- to late June, the American Forces Press Service, the media arm of the Defense Department, reported Sunday.
The reduction in furlough days would affect about 11,400 civilian workers on military bases in South Carolina and about 700,000 civilian employees across the country. Those workers include school teachers, doctors and nurses, food-service workers, security guards and others.
Efforts to reach officials at Columbia’s Fort Jackson and Sumter’s Shaw Air Force Base about the furloughs were unsuccessful.
However, the shorter furlough period should sting the Columbia and Sumter economies less. A 22-day furlough would have reduced spending by civilian workers at those bases on gas, food, entertainment and other items by $22.2 million. A 14-day furlough would cut that spending by about $14.3 million.
Joint Base Charleston officials said they were awaiting word from the Pentagon.
Furlough notices go out next month, the news service said. Furloughs would happen over seven two-week pay periods until the end of September, the end of the current fiscal year. Employees would be furloughed two days in each of those pay periods.
The furloughs are part of the automatic spending cuts that took effect March 1. The military’s portion of the furloughs is expected to save about $2.5 billion this year.
The lower number of furlough days is due to military appropriations in a continuing budget resolution passed by Congress last week. The resolution averted about $6 billion in cuts that would have been required by automatic across-the-board budget cuts that are the result of last year’s debt-ceiling fight.
The military faces $500 billion in across-the-board cuts over the next 10 years unless Congress and the president can find an alternative. Those cuts, called “sequester,” are part of $1.2 trillion in cuts – half to domestic spending, half to the military – mandated after the debt ceiling fight.
The cuts come on top of $487 billion in reductions already targeted by the Pentagon – together equaling about 18 percent of the 2012 defense budget. That’s a scary figure in South Carolina, where eight bases and thousands of defense contractors pump $16 billion into the state’s economy each year.