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Hundreds of civilians who provide sexual assault prevention and counseling services will be exempted from the 11-day furloughs that most Defense Department employees will face later this year, a Pentagon official said.
The decision to grant rare exemptions comes after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced a series of new policies that aim to crack down on military sexual assault, including a new round of training and certification for all Defense Department sexual assault service providers.
“This will help ensure responsive victim care and also ensure that the new initiatives directed by Secretary Hagel will be implemented swiftly and efficiently,” Pentagon spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said Wednesday.
The vast majority of the Defense Department’s nearly 800,000 civilians will face 11 days of furlough this summer as a result of the across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration. There are more than 500 civilians who provide sexual assault services and will be exempted from furloughs.
President Obama summoned Hagel and the entire Joint Chiefs of Staff to the White House on May 16 to discuss ways to address military sexual assault, which Obama called “dangerous to our national security.”