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Federal workers who have been seeing their paychecks cut by 20 percent since the week of July 8 will get a financial break — at least for the end of this fiscal year.

Their planned furlough days have been reduced from 11 to six, according to posts Tuesday on the Department of Defense website.

“It looks like the 16th will be our last furlough day,” said Connie Hempel, a public affairs officer at Patuxent River Naval Air Station. “I think it’s great.”

The furloughs affect more than 8,000 civilian workers at Pax River, most of them with the Naval Air Systems Command. NAVAIR has more than 24,000 civilian workers worldwide.

But, the Pentagon is unsure what will happen Oct. 1 and beyond. The budget has yet to be determined and Congress has not reached a resolution that could prevent additional furloughs, and potential layoffs of some federal defense workers over the long term.

Hagel said in an announcement Tuesday that, “as we look ahead to fiscal year 2014, less than two months away, the Department of Defense still faces major fiscal challenges.” If Congress does not make budgetary changes, Hagel said, DoD must cut an additional $52 billion in fiscal year 2014 — 40 percent more than the $37 billion in cuts required this fiscal year.

At one point, federal employees faced up to 22 furlough days, as DoD grappled with shortfalls of more than $30 billion in its day-to-day operating coffers, Hagel said. Since then, the department has imposed civilian hiring freezes, layoffs of temporary workers, “significant cuts in facilities maintenance, and more.”

Since then Congress, which allowed sequestration to go into effect in March, allowed the DoD to move money across different accounts to prioritize spending needs. And, Hagel said, “we are also experiencing less than expected costs in some areas, such as transportation of equipment out of Afghanistan.”

At Pax River, Hempel said command leaders are working to determine how the change in furlough days might affect gate operation hours, as well as commissary hours and other services affected by the furlough.

Currently, most workers at Pax do not report to their jobs on Fridays due to the mandated shorter work weeks. The commissary is normally closed on Mondays but, due to furloughs, also has been closed Tuesdays this summer. And, budget cuts have led Pax River to nearly shutter entries and exits at Gate 3, just off Hermanville Road, and Route 235. Currently, the gate is open from 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. Trash pickup in several buildings has been significantly reduced, and transportation services, once provided to workers on the base’s nearly 80 miles of roads, was cancelled.

NAVAIR also has about 6,000 contract workers at Pax River. Those who normally work on the base have been forbidden to report to their jobs at station on Fridays when government workers are furloughed.

Ultimately, Hagel said, “I want to assure our civilian employees that we will do everything possible to avoid more furloughs.”

nclark@somdnews.com