Civilian workers for the Department of Defense will have to take six mandatory unpaid furlough days instead of 11 days, according to an Associated Press report that the Pentagon confirmed Tuesday afternoon.
Update at 2:20 p.m. ET: Pentagon Confirms Reduced Furloughs
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and the Pentagon have issued a statement announcing the reduction in civilian furlough days, from 11 to six.
"With the end of the fiscal year next month, managers across the DoD are making final decisions necessary to ensure we make the $37 billion spending cuts mandated by sequestration," Hagel said, "while also doing everything possible to limit damage to military readiness and our workforce."
Hagel said that this year's budget has been marked by volatility and uncertainty — and he noted that the Department of Defense is currently slated for cuts of $52 billion in the 2014 financial year, which begins Oct. 1.
Our original post continues:
"Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel approved the final numbers this week after meeting with top leaders," the AP reports. "Officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. The decision comes as about 650,000 civilian workers began their fifth week of furloughs."
Earlier this year, Pentagon workers were told they could face up to 22 furlough days because of budget cuts. Defense employees began taking furlough days on July 8.
News of a possible change to the cuts has circulated since late July, when the AP reported that the eased furloughs were possible if budget chiefs could find hundreds of millions of dollars in savings.
The furloughs have brought pay cuts, stress, and even attempts at humor from the workers.
News of the possible reduction was welcomed by many on the How I Spent My Furlough Day Facebook page Tuesday. But several employees also admitted to being frustrated and unsettled by the stream of changes to the Pentagon's plan.
One worker said that the changes had foiled her hopes of avoiding taking medical leave; and another noted that her furlough days will stop right before her children were finally about to get back in school.
Last month, Morning Edition reported on defense workers who participated in the Federal Furlough Five-Mile Fun Run for Freedom, an event organized by the creators of the How I Spent My Furlough Day page.
In keeping with the furlough spirit, the race stopped 20 percent short of the advertised finish line.