Shutdown update: Hagel orders DOD employees back to work; House passes bill to restore their pay

Staff writerOctober 5, 2013 

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel today announced that he is ordering most of the Pentagon's civilian employees back to work on Monday despite the partial government shutdown that kept many of them home this week.

About half of the Defense Department's 800,000 civilian employees did not go to work last week because of the partial shutdown. It's not clear when they'll be paid. The House of Representatives today passed a bill that would give them retroactive pay when the shutdown ends.

Hagel was able to bring most Defense Department civilians back to work through an interpretation of a bill Congress passed last week to make sure military service members are paid on time through the shutdown. 

His announcement is not a "blanket recall," but it allows military commanders to bring back employees who "contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities and readiness of service members." 

"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," Hagel said.

It's not clear yet how the announcement affects the 16,000 civilian employees and contractors who work at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

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Federal workers going without salaries during the partial government shutdown would get full retroactive pay under a bill the House of Representatives passed today.

The bill would take away some of the anxiety 800,000 federal workers around the country are feeling on the fifth day of the partial government shutdown. The bill passed the House 407-0.

“This bill provides some needed peace of mind for the children and families of federal employees,” Olympia Democratic Rep. Denny Heck, who co-sponsored the bill, said in a written statement.

About 8,000 workers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord are subject to the furloughs and do not know when they’ll get their next paychecks. A little more than half of them are still going to work without pay through the shutdown because their assignments are considered essential for the health and safety of troops and Lewis-McChord residents.

Today, representatives from the Lewis-McChord chapters of American Federation of Government Employees plan to walk in Spanaway to meet with residents and talk about how the shutdown hurts the local economy.

Democratic Rep. Rick Larsen, who represents thousands of furloughed Navy workers in Everett and at Whidbey Island, voted for the bill. 

“Federal employees deserve their back pay, but they also deserve to be allowed to report to work on Monday,” he said in a written statement. “People in Northwest Washington deserve their full government back open and serving them.”

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