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'Sequester' at Pentagon: why furloughs may not be as harmful as predicted

As part of the sequester, the Defense Department began furloughs of civilian employees Monday. The Pentagon has warned of a devastating impact, but at least one analyst suspects that some of the undone work won't be missed.

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The Pentagon has long warned of a devastating impact from the “sequester.” So just how dire will the impact be from furloughs of the Defense Department’s civilian employees?

The answer may be that the furloughs – which began Monday – are simply not as calamitous as the Pentagon has been warning.

Under the furlough plan, some 680,000 of the DOD’s 800,000 civilian employees worldwide will go on mandatory unpaid leave for 11 days per worker through September.

Roughly 120,000 civilian employees, including political appointees, will be exempt from the temporary layoffs.

There are some areas where the impact of civilian furloughs will be felt immediately, “with work not getting done that is absolutely essential,” says Todd Harrison, senior fellow for defense budget studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a Washington think tank.

This includes a potential backlog of contracting projects and a “gumming up” of the programs to buy weapons systems.

What’s more, “We’re going to see a slowdown in maintenance for sure,” as well as a decided decrease in base services, Mr. Harrison says.

But there will also be areas where furloughs “will not have much of an impact.”

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