The audience at the military based in Charleston, S.C., gasped in surprise and gave a few low whistles as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel delivered the news: Furloughs, which have forced a 20 percent pay cut on most of the military's civilian workforce, probably will continue next year and might worsen.

He says future layoffs also are possible for the department's civilian workforce of more than 800,000 employees if Congress fails to stem the cuts in the next budget year, which starts Oct. 1.

In visits this past week with members of the military, Hagel played the unenviable role of messenger to a frustrated and fearful workforce coping with the inevitability of a spending squeeze at the end of more than a decade of constant and costly war.

[Associated Press]