WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told Congress on Wednesday that if automatic government spending cuts kick in on March 1 he may have to shorten the workweek for the “vast majority” of the Defense Department’s 800,000 civilian workers.
They would lose one day of work per week, or 20 percent of their pay, for up to 22 weeks.
Panetta also said the across-the-board spending reductions would “put us on a path toward a hollow force,” meaning a military incapable of fulfilling all of its missions.
In a written message to employees, Panetta said he notified members of Congress that if the White House and Congress cannot strike a deficit reduction deal before March 1 to avoid the furloughs, all affected workers will get at least 30 days’ advance notice.
The furloughs would be part of a broader plan the Pentagon is preparing in order to cut $46 billion through the end of this budget year, which ends Sept. 30. More cuts would come in future years as long as the automatic government spending cuts remained in effect.