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Furloughed base employees called back to work

Col. Patrick J. Rhatigan, commander 19th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base answers questions during a press conference held Thursday to tell of the effects of the government shutdown on base operations with the furlough of 350 civilian employees. However, signing of the Pay Our Military law by President Barack Obama opened the way to allow most, if not all, the air base employees. (Photo by Ed Galucki)Buy Photo
Col. Patrick J. Rhatigan, commander 19th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base answers questions during a press conference held Thursday to tell of the effects of the government shutdown on base operations with the furlough of 350 civilian employees. However, signing of the Pay Our Military law by President Barack Obama opened the way to allow most, if not all, the air base employees. (Photo by Ed Galucki)

All 350 furloughed civilians at Little Rock Air Force Base will report for duty Monday. Col. Patrick Rhatigan, 19th Airlift Wing and base commander announced the end of the furloughs in a press release issued Sunday.

Rhatigan said the recall was made following Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announcement Saturday that not only would civilian employees be notified to report to work on Monday, but that they would get back pay for the unpaid furlough days.

In a Department of Defense press release, Hagel said the order to return to work was made immediately after President Barack Obama signed the Pay Our Military Act into law.

The press release noted that the DOD acting general counsel, after consulting the Department of Justice, advised that the law does not permit a blanket recall of all civilians. However, 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.

Hagel said he expected to significantly reduce — but not eliminate — civilian furloughs.

“We have tried to exempt as many DOD civilian personnel as possible from furloughs. 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 in the press release.

During a press conference Thursday, Rhatigan said that, “We rely on our civilians every day to keep the Air Force in the fight. This is a workforce we depend on to get our mission done.”

“Flying training is continuing, deployments are continuing – that is an absolute must … the nation counts on us, we are going to get the mission done,” Rhatigan said.

Estimates of the potential economic impact on the area were not available. However, with an annual civilian payroll of about $29 million, the area stood to lose about $37,500 a day in missed pay.

“We need every single civilian back to work,” Rhatigan said said Thursday while responding to questions. “Because, rest assured, we do not have extra money, and we do not have extra people, we need every one to get the mission done.”

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