Washington — The furloughs of 900 Michigan members of the National Guard ended this week following a new interpretation by the Department of Defense of federal shutdown rules.
The decision also means all 650 furloughed civilian employees and military technicians at Selfridge Air National Guard 127th Wing reported back to work Tuesday and the base’s Selfridge Commissary reopened. The announcement also allowed most of roughly 3,750 laidoff civilian workers at U.S Army’s TACOM Life Cycle Management Command in Warren to return to work Monday, said Donald Jarosz, TACOM spokesman, but he couldn’t supply a specific number. About half of the 7,500 civilian workers were laid off last week.
“As far as we know, virtually everybody is back at work at TACOM,” said Paul Veselenak, president of the Local 1658 AFGE union that represents local defense workers.
The failure of Congress to pass a funding bill before the Oct. 1 expiration meant 900 Michigan National Guard technicians were furloughed and weekend training canceled, causing a ripple effect on the schedules of all 12,000 members of the Michigan Air and Army National Guard.
U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, whose Macomb County district is home to Selfridge Air National Guard base, had argued the Department of Defense should have never furloughed the guard members because of legislation signed into law late Sept. 30 to ensure military pay.
“It was so unnecessary for these active duty members of our National Guard to ever be furloughed, particularly after the passage of the Pay Our Military Act which should have stopped furloughs for any active duty military members,” Miller, R-Harrison Township, said in statement late Monday. “One can only conclude that the administration took these actions in order to cause the maximum amount of pain on members of our military during a government shutdown. To make matters worse, these furloughs clearly weakened our national security posture for no reason other than to try to score political points.”
Miller signed on to a bipartisan letter last week urging Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to reinstate the furloughed National Guard members. Over the weekend, Hagel announced after legal review the law does allow to recall most defense personnel placed on furlough whose responsibilities “contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities and readiness of service members.”
The decision led to about 90 percent of furloughed defense employees returning to work this week, from about 350,000 furloughed Oct. 1, according to the Defense Department.
Veselenak says he has mixed feelings about the recall of the defense employees. Many other problems still loom: Legislation still isn’t complete on workers receiving retroactive pay, the threat of the U.S. defaulting on its debts after Oct. 17 could spell more furloughs and many other nondefense employees are still out of work, he said.
“We are definitely not out of the woods yet,” he said.