Civilian employees at the Department of Defense and across the federal government still don't know the extent to which they will be forced to stay home from work due to mandatory budget cuts, but they can take comfort in knowing their boss will also take a bath.
The Pentagon announced on March 27 that it would cut the number of furlough days from 22 down to 14 for most of its 700,000 civilian employees. Across-the-board automatic spending cuts, known as sequestration, began on March 1, forcing the Defense Department to find roughly $43 billion in savings.
Newly minted Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel told his senior staff shortly before taking office Feb. 27 that he would plan to give up part of his salary equal to the cuts forced on his employees.
"He will voluntarily subject part of his salary to furlough," Pentagon spokesman George Little told reporters on Tuesday. "The secretary plans to subject his pay to furlough levels even though he's not required to, because he's a presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed official in this department."
A legal framework exists for Hagel to essentially write a check back to the U.S. Treasury. Hagel makes $199,700 per year, according to non-profit WageIndicator Foundation. Though Pentagon officials didn't give firm figures, if his salary is divided by the 251 working days in 2013 (omitting weekends and holidays), Hagel could repay about $11,000 for two weeks of furlough time.
The Pentagon is still determining who will be subject to furloughs and for how long, during what Little calls "a troubling time." Most civilians, including Little, would be subject to the furlough days, with the exception of those deployed to war zones and foreign nationals employed by the U.S. overseas.
Little says the reduction from 22 to 14 potential furlough days "hopefully gives some relief to our civilian workforce." Federal departments are obliged to provide 30 days notice to employees before furloughs begin.
"This is not something that you get a notice one day and a furlough the next," Little said on Tuesday. "We understand the need to take great care of our civilian workforce."
The 480 employees at the Office of Management and Budget, the White House's financial planning arm, all received furlough notices on April 1. White House spokesman Jay Carney said the executive branch has tried to cut costs by scaling back purchases, cutting staff travel and slowing hiring, among other penny-pinching tactics.