Furloughed employees return to work at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, N.H. National Guard
Some of the 332 military technicians of the New Hampshire National Guard that were furloughed as a result of last week's government shutdown, including some that worked at the Concord base pictured here in a file photo from earlier this year, returned to work on Monday. (Alexander Cohn / Monitor file)
About 1,800 federal workers who were furloughed last week at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and the New Hampshire National Guard returned to work yesterday.
Hours before much of the federal government shut down a week ago, President Obama signed the Pay Our Military Act, which ensured military personnel would continue to receive their paychecks during a shutdown.
The legislation also contained language that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel this weekend announced would let most furloughed Department of Defense employees return to work, so long as they “contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities and readiness of service members,” he said.
“We have tried to exempt as many DOD civilian personnel as possible from furloughs. We will continue to try to bring all civilian employees back to work as soon as possible,” Hagel said in a statement. “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.”
At the New Hampshire National Guard, 332 technicians were furloughed last Tuesday because of the shutdown.
In the following days, 23 were granted permission to return to work, and the remaining 309 reported yesterday “to their normal duty location at their normal duty time,” said Lt. Col. Greg Heilshorn, a New Hampshire National Guard spokesman.
An additional 30 people remain furloughed, he said: “They were on temporary full-time orders, and we’re hoping that we can bring them back. But at this point, they were not part of the recall.”
At the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard – just across the state line in Kittery, Maine – approximately 1,520 of the shipyard’s 4,600 civilian employees were sent home last week.
All were back on the job yesterday, said spokesman Gary Hildreth.
“They’ve all been called back to work,” he said.
Many federal employees were sent home due to the shutdown. Others, such as Border Patrol agents and air-traffic controllers, remained at work because they were deemed essential.
It’s not clear how many New Hampshire-based federal workers remain furloughed today as the shutdown enters its eighth day. As of 2012, 4,165 federal employees worked in New Hampshire – not including U.S. Postal Service employees, who have been unaffected by the shutdown.
And even with the National Guard’s technicians back at work, they’re not out of the woods yet, Heilshorn said.
“While it’s very good news that we’re able to bring these men and women back on duty, we’re still operating in a very unstable environment,” Heilshorn said. “Without appropriated funds, we’re still
. . . facing shortfalls in key areas of operation.”
(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or email@example.com or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)