So much for that paid vacation. The vast majority of the 400,000 civilian Defense Department workers who were furloughed due to the shutdown are going back to work, Secretary Chuck Hagel said Saturday in a surprise announcement. Hagel and his staff have been meeting throughout the week to figure out a way to exempt more Defense employees from the furloughs. And it seems they found it thanks to the Pay Our Military Act that President Obama signed as the government began shutting down. The measure that was meant to ensure the military got paid during a shutdown allows the Pentagon to “eliminate furloughs for employees whose responsibilities contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities and readiness of service members,” according to the statement Hagel released Saturday afternoon.
The statement goes on:
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. Employees can expect to hear more information from their managers starting this weekend.
We have tried to exempt as many DoD civilian personnel as possible from furloughs. We will continue to try to bring all civilian employees back to work as soon as possible. Ultimately, the surest way to end these damaging and irresponsible furloughs, and to enable us to fulfill our mission as a Department, is for Congress to pass a budget and restore funds for the entire federal government.
Even though lawmakers tried to exempt the military from the shutdown, “American troops have felt the fallout from the feuding in Washington,” points out Reuters, noting as examples that re-enlistment bonuses have been delayed and U.S. commissaries selling groceries have been shut. Hagel issued a memo to his top leadership detailing all those who can be called back to work. Defense One with the details:
Included under that category are suicide prevention and health care workers, TAPs program employees, family support programs, those providing maintenance and repair of weapons systems and platforms, commissary workers, any training associated with readiness, installation and facilities maintenance, payroll workers, anyone providing guidance, such as legal advice, to military members, and any legal, human resources and administrative support for any of the these duties.