Col. Don Davis, commanding officer of Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany, meets with a group of civilian employees on the base Monday. Many of the base’s employees are back at work, but will not get paid until a resolution by Congress is made. (Staff Photo: Jennifer Parks)
MCLB-ALBANY — Following Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s announcement over the weekend that “most (Department of Defense) civilians placed on emergency furlough Oct. 1 during the ongoing government shutdown have been directed to return to work beginning today,” officials from Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany confirmed Monday that workers have been directed to return.
Under Secretary of Defense Robert F. Hale said most of the 350,000 members of the civilian work force would be called back. Civilian employees aboard the Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany installation have all been recalled and internal base functions have resumed as normal, base officials said.
Retroactive pay has been approved, however federal workers may not receive paychecks until after the government shutdown ends and Congress reaches a resolution on the budget, officials said.
“We remain hopeful that Congress will quickly resolve this issue and our employees can be paid in a timely manner,” Col. Don Davis, commanding officer, Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany, said in a news release. “It’s great to have everyone back.”
Furlough notices went out to MCLB employees on Oct. 1, excluding military personnel and certain civilian personnel such as those working for emergency services like police and fire.
The Pentagon said on Saturday it would recall the vast majority of civilian Defense Department employees sent home during the government shutdown that began last week. 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 most civilians back to work the next week.
“I expect us to be able to significantly reduce — but not eliminate — civilian furloughs under this process,” Hagel said Saturday. “Employees can expect to hear more information from their managers starting this weekend.”
In a telephone briefing to reporters, Hale estimated that the no more than a few tens of thousands of employees would remain on furlough.
“And it may be substantially less than that,” he said, adding that furloughed personnel who did not qualify to return included legislative affairs personnel and some employees working in public affairs.
Hale estimated the number of civilian personnel now furloughed at roughly 350,000, down from previous estimates by defense officials of about 400,000 workers.
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 the health care law as a condition of funding the government, leading to the impasse.
For many affected civilians, it was the second time in as many months they were forced to take unpaid leave. Earlier this year, 3,000 workers at MCLB were impacted by weekly furloughs that were initially planned to last 11 weeks, but was later reduced to six weeks — allowing those impacted to return to their normal work schedules by the end of August.
The back and forth in their work status has a number of employees of the base frustrated, but there is a sense of optimism that a resolution will come soon.
“It feels good to be back,” said Verda Parker, a civilian public affairs specialist at MCLB. “I was frustrated last week, because we had just recovered from the last furloughs.
“My primary thought (when I heard about the furloughs) was that because of the indecisiveness of our congressmen, our livelihood is at stake. (You would think of) the federal government as the most reliable employer … When my creditors start calling, I’m giving them my congressman’s phone number.”
Reuters News Service contributed to this report