Military braces for more squeezes in furloughs, layoffs, pay cuts
JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. — The audience gasped in surprise and gave a few low whistles as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel delivered the news that furloughs, which have forced a 20 percent pay cut on most of the military's civilian workforce, probably will continue next year, and it might get worse.
“Those are the facts of life,” Hagel told about 300 Defense Department employees, most of them middle-aged civilians, at an Air Force reception hall on a military base in Charleston.
Layoffs also are possible for the department's civilian workforce of more than 800,000 employees, Hagel said, if Congress fails to stem the cuts in the next budget year, which starts Oct. 1.
On the heels of the department's first furlough day, and in three days of visits with members of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, Hagel played the unenviable role of messenger to a frustrated and fearful workforce coping with the inevitability of a spending squeeze at the end of more than a decade of constant and costly war.
The fiscal crunch lays bare the politically unpopular need to bring runaway military costs in line with most of the rest of the American public that has struggled economically for years.
“Everybody's bracing for the impact,” Army Master Sgt. Trey Corrales said after Hagel spoke with soldiers during a quick stop at Fort Bragg, N.C.
Corrales' wife, a military civilian employee, is among those furloughed, and they have canceled their cable TV service and started carpooling to work to save money.
“The effects of the economy have started to hit the military,” Corrales said. “It was late in coming to us.”
The furloughs have affected about 650,000 civilian employees but have slowed health care and other services for the uniformed military, which has stopped some training missions and faces equipment shortages because of the budget shortfalls.
Troops were told this month that they no longer will receive extra pay for deployments to 18 former global hot spots no longer considered danger zones.
Troops are facing force reductions, and the Army alone has announced plans to trim its ranks by 80,000 over the next five years.
Officials agree that the military has undergone cycles of expanding and shrinking of the force over generations.
Hagel said this time is different and worse, however, because of what he described as a “very dark cloud” of uncertainty hanging over the Pentagon as Congress considers whether to reverse $52 billion in spending reductions set to go into effect in 2014.
At the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Fla., Hagel told an estimated 100 civilians gathered in a bustling jet maintenance hangar that the military had not been prepared for the $37 billion in cuts that took effect this year, forcing the furloughs.
While he said he was deeply sorry for the strain the crunch has put on families, Hagel said he would not slash troops' training or other readiness budgets any further to prevent huge gaps in national security.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Hungry bears push into Denver area
- Exploration of sunken German U-boat shown online
- Top Dem on panel says he’ll oppose Obama’s nuke deal
- Boeing names next space fleet
- Charter schools unconstitutional, Washington state’s top court rules
- Bidens remain unsure of readiness for campaign
- California wildfires impede holiday fun
- Rock threatens base of Arizona dam
- Gay couple receives marriage license from controversial Ky. clerk’s office
- Video footage expected to aid in hunt for 3 sought in shooting of Illinois police officer
- More Hillary emails have parts blocked, ruled classified