While the federal government shutdown hit civilian employees at Dugway Proving Ground hard last week, by Monday morning most were back on the job.
“The government shutdown and furlough directly has impacted Dugway Proving Ground,” said DPG Commander Col. Ronald F. Fizer. “I am happy to welcome our excepted employees back to work, authorized by the Pay Our Military Act.”
A total of 478 civilian Department of Defense Workers at DPG were furloughed on Oct. 1 when Congress failed to agree on appropriations legislation for the new budget year.
As of Monday morning, 427 furloughed workers returned to work and by Tuesday the remaining 51 civilian workers were back, according Paula Thomas, DPG public affairs officer.
The number of civilian contractors at DPG affected by the furlough was not available, she said. The total number of civilian employees at Dugway is 600.
The change in furlough orders is a result of the Pay Our Military Act, which was enacted by Congress hours before the federal government shutdown took effect.
The act appropriated pay for active military personnel and was interpreted by the Department of Justice as allowing the Department of Defense to recall most civilian employees to work.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he has tried to exempt as many DOD civilian employees as possible. Yet pay for civilian employees while they are on furlough remains uncertain.
Following past government shutdowns, Congress passed legislation that granted back pay to furloughed employees.
Congressman Chris Stewart, R-Utah, who represents Tooele County, announced on Oct. 3 that he was a co-sponsor of legislation introduced in the House to provide pay to furloughed employees.
House Resolution 3223, the Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act, passed the House with a 407-0 vote on Saturday. It is now in the Senate.
If passed, the resolution will allow furloughed workers to receive back pay after the shutdown is over.
At Tooele Army Depot, where only a small number of workers were affected by the furlough, all employees are also back to work, according to Kathy Anderson, Tooele Army Depot public affairs officer.
Tooele Army Depot’s activities are funded by the Army Working Capital Fund, which is authorized separately from the continuing resolution that is stalled in Congress, she said.
Meantime, Col. Fizer assures that DPG will continue with its mission.
“Dugway’s primary mission is to test chemical and biological equipment that protects our deployed military personnel worldwide,” he said.
“When items are tested here, our Joint Forces may be assured that they have reliable chemical and biological protection, detection and decontamination equipment,” he added. “We remain committed to providing safe and secure operations that enables us to deliver high quality support to our warfighters and emergency response civilians.”