Nearly 9,000 civilian workers went back to work Monday at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. That’s after the Department of Defense reinterpreted a new law in order to end furlough days.
On the eve of the shutdown, Congress passed a law known as the “Pay Our Military Act” that allows the Department of Defense to keep military personnel and the civilians who support them on the job in the case of a government shutdown. But for all of last week, the DoD furloughed about half of its 800,000 civilian workers. In a statement, the Pentagon says its own lawyers and the Department of Justice didn’t think the law allowed a blanket recall of civilians.
After five days of political pressure on Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to reinterpret the law, he issued a memo Saturday giving his employees the green light to end furloughs for many more workers. In essence, the lawyers decided to be more liberal in their interpretation of the word “support.” The Washington Post reports about 300,000 civilians are expected to be recalled as a result, and Wright-Patt leaders say all of their 8,700 furloughed workers were called back on Monday.
In a statement, Hagel said the DoD has tried to keep as many civilians at work as possible, adding “This has been a very disruptive year for our people.”