Civilian defense furloughs kick in

Furloughs of the U.S. military's civilian workers that began Monday will start to show their effects as the week unfolds, from elimination of Saturday hours at a base pharmacy in Washington state to a possible slowdown in work on Patriot missile interceptors in Pennsylvania.

Months after the Pentagon began warning that the automatic cuts called sequestration would force unpaid leave, the rolling furloughs took effect for 85 percent of its civilian workforce.

"Our core mission is to defend the American people and U.S. national security interests," ­Pentagon spokesman George Little told reporters at the Pentagon. "It's not going to be easy" under the reductions, which will be staggered over each two-week pay period.

The move will cost as many as 651,542 employees 11 days' pay through Sept. 30, according to Pentagon figures. The goal is to generate $1.8 billion of the $37 billion in reductions the Pentagon must come up with in the current fiscal year under the cuts.

The effects range from the 72,000 civilian defense workers facing furloughs in Virginia, the hardest-hit state, to one U.S. worker in Ghana, according to a Pentagon report. "Make no mistake about it, we're in a rough period," Little said. While he said the Pentagon won't be able to provide day-by-day totals for furloughs, "my assumption is that the vast majority of that population will be on furlough at least one day this week." Little said he is going on furlough on Fridays starting this week.

One unknown is how furloughs will affect the award and oversight of defense contracts for the remainder of the year.

bloomberg news service