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 the Pay Our Military Act, 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.
A senior defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity estimated that potentially 300,000 or more furloughed Pentagon employees could return to work.