Defense Department To Recall Most Furloughed Civilians Back To Work
Utilizing authority granted to it by a law passed shortly before the clock hit midnight on October 1st and the government shut down, the Pentagon announced today that it would be calling most of its civilian employees back to work:
The Pentagon will recall most of its furloughed civilian workers in the coming days, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Saturday, in a move that could substantially ease the impact of the government shutdown on the federal workforce.
The Pentagon did not immediately specify how many employees would be summoned back to work, except to say that “most” of its 400,000 furloughed civilians would be allowed to return. That means that at least 200,000 Defense workers will go back on the job – a figure that by itself represents one quarter of the 800,000 federal employees on furlough.
Hagel’s decision is based on liberal interpretation of a bill passed by Congress last week and signed by President Obama that ensures that uniformed members of the military will not have their paychecks delayed by the shutdown. The bill includes general language exempting Defense Department civilians from furlough if they provide direct support to the military.
After consulting with Pentagon lawyers and Obama administration officials in recent days, Hagel decided that he could justify recalling most of the Pentagon’s furloughed workforce based on that provision in the law.
In a statement, Hagel said the Justice Department advised that the law would not permit a blanket recall of all civilians working for the Pentagon. But he added that attorneys for the Justice and Defense departments agreed that the law does permit the Pentagon to eliminate furloughs “for employees whose responsibilities contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities and readiness of service members.”
The memorandum released under Secretary Hagel’s name doesn’t specify which employees this applies to and which will remain on furlough, but one imagines that most employees at installations such as the Pentagon will fall under the definition, what it means for other installations isn’t clear yet. This comes on the same day that the House of Representatives passed, without a single vote in opposition, a bill that will pay furloughed and non-furloughed employees after the shutdown has ended. This measure is largely identical to ones that have been passed in the wake of previous shutdowns. It will pass the Senate by an similarly lopsided margin, and President Obama has already said that he’ll sign it
This will reduce the number of Federal workers furloughed by the shutdown by nearly half in that preliminary estimates are that the number of employees recalled in the coming days will number somewhere in the 300,000 range, out of about 800,000 Federal workers currently on furlough. Of course, these workers aren’t going to be paid during the time after their recall, that won’t come until the shutdown is actually over. However, it will remove one of the more visible aspects of the shutdown, especially here in the Washington D.C. area. Indeed, it’s arguable that these two measures will make it less likely that we’ll see a quick resolution to the shutdown itself since it does seem to remove pressure on Congress to act quickly,