Pentagon says it will recall 300,000 furloughed civilian workers

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel boards his plane at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., on Sept. 28 en route to South Korea. Jacquelyn Martin / AP file

The Pentagon announced Saturday that it will recall more than 300,000 furloughed civilian employees – or more than three-quarters of those idled by the partial government shutdown.

Defense Department officials told NBC News that the move came after Pentagon lawyers determined that, since the civilian workers provide support to military personnel, they should be exempt from the furlough under the “Pay The Military Now Act,” signed by President Barack Obama on Monday, on the eve of the shutdown.

The recalled workers will receive paychecks at their normal rate of pay, they said.

In a statement, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the workers would be asked to return beginning next week.

“The Department of Defense consulted closely with the Department of Justice, which expressed its view that the law does not permit a blanket recall of all civilians,” he said. “However, DoD and DOJ attorneys concluded that 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.”

“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,” he added.

The recall will leave approximately 100,000 furloughed civilian workers idle, Pentagon officials said.

NBC News' Joel Seidman contributed to this report.

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