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Four days after lawmakers passed a seemingly simple law declaring troops and essential civilians could be paid during the government shutdown, the Pentagon remains mum on the details about how it will interpret that law.
With the deadline for the mid-month payroll just around the corner, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel continues to consult with government attorneys to determine whether some 400,000 civilians can go back to work, and precisely which special pays and bonuses troops can receive during the lapse in official government funding.
Pentagon attorneys have drawn up a formal request seeking “maximum flexibility” to pay troops and put civilians back to work, and sent it to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget for a final determination, according to an official familiar with the process.
The law also instructs the Defense Department to employ and pay civilians that the secretary of defense “determines are providing support to members of the Armed Services.” While some 400,000 civilian workers received furlough notices Tuesday, some officials have suggested the new law could be interpreted in a way that would put the entire DoD civilian workforce of about 800,000 back on the job.
All active-duty troops will receive basic pay and housing allowances as scheduled on Oct. 15, but questions remain about whether DoD will include special pays, such as danger pay, the $7.50-per-day stipend provided to troops in Afghanistan and other hot spots.
The one-page law that Congress passed on Monday known as the Pay Our Military Act refers only to “pay and allowances,” which may not apply to re-enlistment bonuses or other lump-sum incentive payments that might be scheduled for the Oct. 15 pay cycle. Some troops have complained about missed bonus payments in the days following the shutdown.