Washington: Facing a historic shortfall in its budget for the current fiscal, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel has announced plans to furlough most of nearly 800,000 civilian employees for up to 11 days starting July 8.
Though this is a difficult decision, Hagel in a message to his employees said, furloughs for 11 days represent about half of the number they had originally planned, reflecting the department`s vigorous efforts to meet its budgetary shortfalls through actions other than furlough.
"Difficult choice, but we had to make it," he said in a town hall meeting yesterday.
The 11-day furloughs will save the department USD 1.8 billion, officials said.
Hagel said this is the result of current law that went into effect on March 1, which imposes deep across-the-board cuts on Department of Defence and other federal agencies.
"Combined with higher than expected wartime operating costs, we are now short more than USD 30 billion in our operation and maintenance accounts - which are the funds that we use to pay most civilian employees, maintain our military readiness, and respond to global contingencies," he said.
Hagel said he tried every other option before taking such a decision.
"I tried everything. We did everything we could not to get to this -- this day, this way. But that`s it. That`s where we are," he said.
"I`m sorry, but I have to be honest and deal with the facts. You deserve honesty and you deserve the facts," he added.