The automatic cuts took effect March 1, triggered by Congress' failure to trim the federal deficit by $1.2 trillion over a decade. The Pentagon initially faced a $46 billion budget reduction through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year, but Hagel said a new spending bill signed by Obama this week lowered the reduction by roughly $5 billion. That allows the military to start military construction projects and other programs that otherwise would have been delayed.
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.