Published March 19, 2013
Pentagon workers will learn this week how hard the sequester is about to hit.
Defense Department employees are expected to begin receiving furlough notices Thursday, as thousands of civilian workers prepare to lose 20 percent of their pay because of sequester cuts.
Despite ongoing complaints that the Pentagon has wasted money on "questionable" research and other programs, many of the department's civilian employees are expected to be furloughed for one day a week.
The notices will start to go out Thursday, and employees will have until roughly the end of the month to appeal.
By late April, the furloughs are expected to go into effect, and last through September.
The move was long anticipated. Shortly before the sequester hit, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the "vast majority" of the department's 800,000 civilian workers would face a shortened workweek.
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 remain in effect.
Panetta, who railed against the sequester right up until he left the Pentagon -- replaced by Secretary Chuck Hagel -- said the department would do all it can to perform its "core mission" but the "rigid nature of the cuts" would result in a "serious erosion of readiness."
But Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., last month suggested that the Pentagon could potentially scale back the furloughs by cutting "unnecessary jobs that have little if anything to do with defense."
A report from his office claimed the Pentagon could save $68 billion over 10 years by cutting "non-defense defense spending."
He cited a board of Pentagon workers that are assigned to naming streams, mountains and other geographic features across the U.S. He also alleged more than $6 billion was spent on duplicative and questionable research.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.