CHEYENNE — Civilian employees at the Wyoming National Guard and F.E. Warren Air Force Base will return to 40-hour work weeks beginning Monday after the Pentagon reduced the number of mandatory days off from 11 to six.

An estimated 430 Wyoming National Guard and 1,000 F.E. Warren civilian employees have been affected by the mandated furloughs.

The employees have had to take one day off per week without pay since early July because of automatic budget cuts triggered by across-the-board federal spending cuts, also known as sequesteration, on March 1.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel approved the final furlough numbers early this week after defense officials said they were able to identify about $1.5 billion in new savings.

The decision came as about 650,000 civilian workers nationally began their fifth week of furloughs. The forced time off without pay riled department employees and prompted many to complain directly to Hagel during his visits to military bases in recent weeks, according to published reports.

The original furlough order was for 21 days. It was reduced to 14 days, then 11. The furlough started with the pay period on July 8.

The National Guard civilian employees are classified as federal technicians.

“Most of the techs next week will meet all of the national requirements (for ending the furlough),” Capt. Thomas Blackburn of the Wyoming National Guard’s public affairs office said Thursday.

National Guard officials said earlier that the smaller paychecks were a hardship for some of the technicians who questioned whey they were being targeted for the pay reductions.

The technicians maintain operations at the Air and Army National Guard headquarters in Cheyenne and at seven armories around the state.

The cuts didn’t affect active Guard personnel.

“It was a difficult situation,” Blackburn said. “But we adapted and overcame.”

Hagel’s announcement was welcome news at F.E. Warren, where Col. Tracey Hayes, 90th Missile Wing commander, said in a release that employees scrambled to fit their normal duties into a 32-hour work week.

“This is great news for our civilian teammates, their families and for the entire Air Force,” Hayes said.

Defense officials have cautioned that the budget savings are for this year only and won’t affect likely budget cuts in 2014 if Congress doesn’t act to avoid automatic, across-the-board cuts slated for next year.

Contact capital bureau reporter Joan Barron at 307-632-1244 or joan.barron@trib.com

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