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Furloughs Not Expected For Civilian Defense Workforce

Job furloughs for the civilian defense workforce won't be used right away if a deal is not struck this week to avert the fiscal cliff, but the Pentagon's top leader said temporary layoffs later might be unavoidable.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta outlined the plan to the Pentagon workforce last week, but he didn’t rule out furloughs with “requisite advance notice” at some point if Congress and President Obama fail don’t reach a deal by January. The president has exempted uniformed service members from job losses in the tax and deficit negotiations.

While the commitment to protect jobs is welcome, the future remains uncertain for many civilians who work at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and Springfield Air National Guard Base until a deal is reached, analysts say/.../

Todd Harrison, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington, D.C., isn’t confident employees won’t feel financial pain from the budget fallout. He said the Defense Department’s civilian workforce could see rolling furloughs of up to one month starting in February.

“If sequestration stays in effect,” he said in an email, “we could see furloughs for virtually every DoD civilian employee by the end of the fiscal year. … Cuts are not imminent, but they are on the horizon.”

He advised employees to make financial plans and avoid major purchases until budget issues are settled. “It can be really hard on a family to lose a month’s pay,” he wrote.