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Furloughs Called Off for Most of Pentagon's Civilian Employees

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By Clyde Hughes   |   Monday, 07 Oct 2013 07:29 AM

Despite the partial federal government shutdown, the Pentagon called off furloughs for most of the Pentagon's 350,000 civilian employees Saturday because of the Pay Our Military Act, which was signed shortly before last week's shutdown.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told the Associated Press that 90 percent of the workers were ordered back to work based on interpretation of the law. Federal attorneys believe the law allowed the Pentagon to slash furloughs for "employees whose responsibilities contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities and readiness of service members." 

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The law, created in light of the government shutdown, ensures that members of the military who have remained at work throughout the shutdown receive pay on time. It also allowed Pentagon civillians the same exemption.

While many connected with the military are expected to return to work this week, the continuing government shutdown, which will reach one week on Tuesday, still threatens to affect the rest of the nation. The Star-Ledger reported that nonprofit groups that rely on federal funding fear a dropoff or termination of services for poor residents. 

A New Jersey federal judge said jury trials and cases could come to a halt this week if courts do not receive expected funds. An economist told the newspaper the shutdown has the potential of creating "echo effects" on private businesses that would drive down hiring and spending.

"That’s not crying wolf," Joseph J. Seneca, an economics professor at Rutgers University, told the Star-Ledger. "It carries a significant threat of a very, very sharp downturn on the economy. It’s like shooting yourself in the foot with both barrels. Hopefully, there will be some sanity prevailing and there will be some leadership that sees the country’s interest as a first priority."

Seneca and other experts have said the upcoming battle over the debt limit could have far more devastating effects on the U.S. economy.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said on CNN's "State of the Union" that the nation will lose its ability to borrow money in 10 days, which could harm economies around the world. 

"We are the strongest, most important economy in the world," Lew said. "We've already seen that with the government shutdown - the kinds of gridlock and brinksmanship in Washington hurts people, and it hurts the economy."

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