WASHINGTON (AP) -- Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is telling Congress that if automatic budget cuts kick in on March 1 he may be compelled to furlough the "vast majority" of the Defense Department's 800,000 civilian workers.
In a written message to employees, Panetta said that he notified members of Congress Wednesday that if furloughs cannot be avoided, all affected workers will get at least 30 days' notice.
Pentagon officials have said the furloughs would be structured so that nearly all 800,000 workers lose one day of work per week for 22 weeks, probably starting in late April. That means they would lose 20 percent of their pay over that period.
Panetta said the administration is still working with Congress to avoid automatic budget cuts by reaching agreement on a deficit reduction plan.