Hagel Notes Sequester's 'Particular Pain' for CiviliansBy Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 1, 2013 - Defense Department civilian employees will "particularly" feel the pain sequester will bring to the entire defense workforce, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said today.
In his first Pentagon press briefing, Hagel outlined the steps the Pentagon and the services will take as the budget mechanism known as sequester, which takes effect at midnight, trims roughly half a trillion dollars from defense spending over the next 10 years.
Along with cost-cutting actions by the services to curtail training and maintenance, the department has already announced it will furlough civilian employees beginning in late April, cutting their work hours and pay by 20 percent for the rest of the fiscal year.
"Our number one concern is our people, military and civilian, the millions of men and women of this department who work very hard every day to ensure America's security," the secretary said. "I know that these budget cuts will cause pain, particularly among our civilian workforce and their families. I'm also concerned, as we all are, about the impact on readiness that these cuts will have across our force."
Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter joined Hagel for today's conference and shared his views about defense civilian workers.
"As you know, our civilian workforce is about 800,000 strong," Carter said. "Those people, too, are dedicated to the defense mission." Nearly 90 percent of DOD civilians live outside of Washington, he noted, and nearly half of them are veterans.
"So they're dedicated to the mission, too," he said. "And as the year goes on, many of them will be subject to furlough."
Civilians make important contributions to the nation's defense, Carter said. "They do real things that are really important to us. And they've had their pay frozen for years; now they're subject to furlough."
The deputy secretary said the reason civilians join the department, and the reason "I hope they'll stick with us," is because of mission.
"They're committed to what we do, which is defend the country and hope to make a better world," he said. "That's why they do it."