Chuck Hagel admits most Pentagon furloughs were unnecessary
By JOEL GEHRKE | OCTOBER 5, 2013 AT 4:50 PM
Most of the furloughed Department of Defense civilian employees will be recalled, according to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, who acknowledged that government lawyers interpreted a Pentagon funding law passed on the eve of the shutdown too narrowly.
"Today I am announcing that most DOD civilians placed on emergency furlough during the government shutdown will be asked to return to work beginning next week," Hagel said Saturday.
Hagel said Pentagon and Department of Justice "attorneys concluded that the law does allow the Department of Defense to eliminate furloughs for employees whose responsibilities contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities and readiness of service members.
"Consequently, I am now directing the military departments and other DOD components to move expeditiously to identify all employees whose activities fall under these categories. I expect us to be able to significantly reduce – but not eliminate – civilian furloughs under this process," he said.
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House Republicans passed the Pay Our Military Act to the Senate on the eve of the government shutdown in order to insulate the Pentagon from the effects of the lapse in government appropriations.
The Senate passed and President Obama signed the measure, but the Pentagon furloughed about 400,000 civilians anyway.
“I know you would agree with me that this is no time to use national security or our national security workforce as a political pawn,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., said earlier this week in a letter to Hagel urging him not to furlough the workers.