Most civilian employees of the U.S. Department of Defense have been taken off of furlough after the passage of the "Pay Our Military Act," officials announced Saturday.
"I expect us to be able to significantly reduce – but not eliminate – civilian furloughs under this process," Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said in a statement Saturday.
"The Department of Defense consulted closely with the Department of Justice, which expressed its view that the law does not permit a blanket recall of all civilians," Hagel said. "However, DoD and DOJ 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."
That assessment allows all but a few tens of thousands of defense civilian employees to return to work, Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale told reporters at the Washington Post and other news outlets in a phone conference Saturday. About 350,000 civilians in defense have been furloughed, Hale said.
Hagel described the year as "disruptive" for personnel in his missive. The budget sequester required more than 600,000 civilian U.S. defense employees to take unpaid leave in early August. While the DoD has tried to exempt as many DoD civilian personnel as possible from furloughs, "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.