The Pentagon has begun laying off 46,000 contract and temporary civilian employees in an effort to cut back on military spending, the No. 2 Pentagon official said on Friday.

Full time civilian employees, which number in the hundreds of thousands, also will be furloughed for one day a week for 22 weeks, Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in an interview with wire service reporters.

His comments were confirmed by a Pentagon spokesman.

The moves are part of a Defense Department effort to reduce spending given the potential for billions in mandatory cuts beginning as early as this spring should Congress fail to reach a deal on deficit reduction.

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