Dr. Boozman's Check-up

Over the weekend, the Department of Defense (DOD) announced that almost all of its 350,000 furloughed civilian employees, including those in the National Guard and Reserve components, would return to work in the coming days.

This includes over 700 members of the Arkansas National Guard that were furloughed last week.

I am pleased that Secretary Hagel has cleared the way for these men and women to return to work, but they should’ve never been furloughed in the first place. Prior to the government shutdown, Congress passed and the President signed into law the Pay Our Military Act to make sure both active duty service members and DOD civilian employees receive pay during the government shutdown.

The language of the Pay Our Military Act was specifically written to avoid the “exempted” and “essential” tags. The law is explicitly clear: all members of the Armed Forces, including Reserve component personnel serving in an active status, will be paid in the event of a government shutdown. Further, the bill requires that civilian Department of Defense personnel “providing support to members of the Armed Forces” continue to receive their pay and allowances.

Late last week, I joined forty-nine of my Senate colleagues to ask Secretary Hagel to make sure that all members of the military are compensated for their service during the shutdown.  We clearly stated that all service members, and the civilians that support them, should receive equitable and fair treatment under this law. We urged him to use the authority granted by Congress to maintain our military readiness without interruption.

I am pleased that the Administration took steps to ensure that the spirit of the “Pay Our Military Act” is upheld. It would be beneficial if the Administration made more common-sense decisions like this to help Americans impacted by the shutdown, rather than looking for ways to exacerbate the pain.