WASHINGTON - Most of the estimated 350,000 civilian employees furloughed by the Defence Department during the US government shutdown will be recalled to work, the Pentagon said Saturday.
Pentagon officials estimated that about 90 per cent or more of civilian employees would be allowed to return to their jobs, and aimed to bring many back as soon as Monday.
"These people want to get back to work, and we want them back at work," Defence Department Comptroller Robert Hale told reporters in a conference call.
Pentagon lawyers concluded that a measure signed by President Barack Obama earlier in the week allows employees "whose responsibilities contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities and readiness of service members" to be exempted from the shutdown.
The Pay Our Military Act provided that the 1.4 million active duty troops serving worldwide, including service members in Afghanistan, would still get paid.
"I expect us to be able to significantly reduce - but not eliminate - civilian furloughs under this process," Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said about the latest move.
Hale said he expected to "bring most of them back, that no more than a few tens of thousands will remain on furlough and it may be substantially less than that."
Pentagon officials said they expect that inspectors dealing with defence contracts would be able to return to work.