WASHINGTON — The Pentagon announced Thursday that it has delayed sending out furlough notices to more than 700,000 civilian workers — including about 24,000 in Oklahoma — to reassess its budget situation.
The decision came after the House gave final legislative approval to a stopgap spending bill that beefs up the Defense Department's maintenance and operations account and allows more flexibility to deal with the deep cuts that went into effect March 1.
Pentagon press secretary George Little said the department, which was expected to send out furlough notices on Thursday, would delay issuing the notices for about two weeks.
Little said the delay would allow the department to carefully analyze the impact of the spending bill.
“We have not made any decisions on whether or not the total number of planned furlough days for fiscal 2013 will change as a result of this delay,” Little said.
“We believe the delay is a responsible step to take in order to assure our civilian employees that we do not take lightly the prospect of furloughs and the resulting decrease in employee pay.”
The Air Force has estimated as many as 16,000 civilian workers may be furloughed at Oklahoma's three bases, with most coming at Tinker Air Force Base.
The U.S. Army has an estimated 7,700 civilian workers at Fort Sill, an Army artillery training post near Lawton, and at its ammunition plant in McAlester.
The Pentagon has previously warned that civilian workers might have to take 22 furlough days between late April and late September. According to the Pentagon, that would cut $129 million from Defense Department payrolls in Oklahoma.
A Pentagon spokeswoman said the furlough day target remains at 22; she said furlough notices will likely go out around April 5.
“The legislation could have some impact on the overall number of furlough days, but no decisions have been reached, especially since the legislation hasn't been signed into law,” Navy Cmdr. Leslie Hull-Ryde said.
The spending bill, which was approved by the Senate on Wednesday and is now expected to be signed by the president, averts a government shutdown next week and locks in the $85 billion in cuts, known as the sequester, for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30.
The Pentagon has to absorb more than half of the $85 billion in reductions over the span of a few months.
The bill easily won House approval Thursday; Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Tulsa, was the only House member from Oklahoma voting against it.