“He’s challenged us to keep looking,” Dempsey added. “I don’t know if we’re going to find the opportunity to avoid it entirely, but we would certainly like to do so.”
The Defense Department is trying to maintain rough parity in furloughs across the department while balancing the military services’ varied perspectives. The Navy has said it can make budget cuts mandated by the sequester without furloughs, while Army officials say the war in Afghanistan and other priorities make it nearly impossible to make the cuts without furloughs.
“It’s heart wrenching that we’re out at the point where we have to furlough those civilian counterparts who work just as hard as their uniformed counterparts,” Dempsey said.
Dempsey said a final decision might not come until later in May.
He also warned that damage to the force readiness brought by budget cuts could turn into retention problems down the road as service members leave the force
“Over time, and unless we get our budget house in order … I will be concerned about atrophying skills and readiness,” Dempsey said.