WASHINGTON — The Pentagon said on Saturday it will recall many of the roughly 400,000 civilian Defense Department employees sent home during the government shutdown, in a move that could greatly lessen the impact of feuding in Washington on armed forces.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said a legal review of the “Pay Our Military Act,” signed by President Barack Obama on Monday on the eve of the shutdown, would allow him to bring a still-unspecified number of civilians back to work next week.
“I expect us to be able to significantly reduce — but not eliminate — civilian furloughs under this process,” Hagel said.
“Employees can expect to hear more information from their managers starting this weekend.”
Since the start of the shutdown, American troops have felt the fallout from the feuding in Washington despite legislation meant to protect them. Republicans in the House of Representatives have tried to defund or delay Obama’s signature healthcare law as a condition of funding the government, leading to the impasse.
With the shutdown, sailors have complained about delays in annual payments of re-enlistment bonuses, military academies have scaled back classes and key Pentagon offices have been hollowed out. Even commissaries selling groceries to military families have been shuttered.
For many of the civilians, it was the second time in as many months they were forced to take unpaid leave.
More than 600,000 civilian defense employees were required to take unpaid leave in early August in a bid to reduce spending after across-the-board budget cuts went into force in March.
“This has been a very disruptive year for our people,” Hagel said.