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(CNN) - The Pentagon has started laying off thousands of contract and temporary civilian workers in an effort to reduce spending ahead of possible mandatory budget cuts in March.

A spokesman says the agency is letting 46,000 people go. Full-time civilian employees, which number in the hundreds of thousands, will undergo a one day a week furlough for 22 weeks.

If Congress fails to reach a deal on deficit reduction, the military will be forced to reduce its budget by billions of dollars.

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