The furloughs are expected to save about $2.5 billion, Hagel said.
Before the bill was signed, civilians would have been required to take one day a week off without pay for 22 weeks — a 20 percent pay cut for more than five months. The spending bill gave officials the leeway to lessen the salary cuts and spread money around to other key priorities, including training, maintenance and possible ship deployments.
As an example, the Navy had delayed refueling overhauls of two aircraft carriers, the USS Theodore Roosevelt and the USS Abraham Lincoln — critical maintenance work that officials said would be a priority if additional funding became available.
Breedlove is the top Air Force commander in Europe. If he's confirmed by the Senate, he would be the first Air Force general to hold the top NATO job since Joseph Ralston served there from 2000-2003. Breedlove would succeed Navy Adm. James Stavridis, who has held the job since 2009.
Obama chose Breedlove after his first choice for the job, Marine Gen. John Allen, announced he would retire after 19 months commanding allied forces in Afghanistan because of his wife's health.
Hagel, who said he met with Breedlove on his way back from a recent trip to Afghanistan, urged the Senate to confirm him quickly.
“We need to get that position filled,” he said.
Obama said Breedlove has “served with distinction in assignments at all levels of the U.S. Air Force and around the globe, from Washington to Germany, Italy, Spain and South Korea.”