Following reports that many Department of Defense (DoD) civilian personnel and full-time National Guard employees throughout the country were furloughed despite passage of the "Pay Our Military First Act," Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) sent a letter today to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, calling on the Secretary to send these men and women back to work. Thune's letter stresses that the legislation signed by President Obama on Monday, September 30th, granted authority to pay civilian and contract employees who are engaged in supporting our Armed Forces, including many of those who were recently furloughed at Ellsworth Air Force Base and South Dakota National Guard installations.
"Congress acted with clear intent to prevent the furlough of civilian DoD and National Guard employees, and still the administration inappropriately furloughed these men and women," said Thune. "Even Secretary Hagel mentioned that these civilian employees are critical to maintaining our military readiness across the nation. I urge the Secretary to act swiftly to return these civilian personnel back to work."
The text of Thune's letter is below:
October 2, 2013
The Honorable Chuck Hagel
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20310
Dear Mr. Secretary:
Thank you for your service to our country and your commitment to the men and women of our armed forces, their families, and the civilian personnel who support them. I share the concerns you have expressed regarding the impact a partial government shutdown could have on our military readiness.
In an effort to mitigate that impact, I supported the Pay Our Military First Act, H.R. 3210, which was unanimously passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives and signed into law by the president on September 30, 2013. With the enactment of this law, active duty uniformed personnel should continue to get paid as well as the civilian and contract personnel who support them in their service to our country.
Therefore, I am deeply concerned that the Department of Defense has since furloughed hundreds of thousands of men and women who support our Armed Forces. These furloughs, which Congress acted to prevent, include not only civilian personnel in my state of South Dakota, but also nearly 60 percent of the full-time South Dakota National Guard personnel.
The Pay Our Military First Act should ensure that civilian and contract employees of the Department of Defense who support our Armed Forces stay on the job. This new law expands the parameters of those who were previously deemed "excepted" or "essential" by the administration during a partial government shutdown. The bill likewise stipulates that pay should be provided for members of the Armed Forces and "reserve components thereof" who perform "active service." Therefore, I seek additional information as to why uniformed, full-time National Guard personnel serving as duel-status technicians have not been designated as meeting this requirement.
I am pleased to hear that you are reviewing H.R. 3210 to "see if there's any margin or widening in the interpretation of the law." I look forward to hearing clarification from you regarding the administration's interpretation of this law, as well as a plan for the personnel who have been inappropriately impacted by these furloughs to return to work as soon as possible.
I appreciate your attention to this issue.