Defense companies say they'll start furloughing workers 'within days'

The defense industry says it will furlough thousands of workers and halt manufacturing production if the government shutdown doesn't end soon.

The heads of the two largest defense trade associations wrote to Defense Secretary Chuck HagelChuck HagelPentagon withholding nuclear weapons inspection results: report Lobbying World The US just attacked Syria. So where's Congress? MORE on Thursday urging the Pentagon “use all the means at the department’s disposal” to keep defense production facilities operating.

“Within days many of our members will have no choice but to halt certain defense manufacturing production and furlough employees indefinitely absent government guidance and payment,” wrote Aerospace Industries Association President Marion Blakey and National Defense Industrial Association President Lawrence Farrell.

In the letter, obtained by The Hill, the association presidents say that defense firms have warned them they will be forced to furlough thousands of workers if defense contracting functions stop operating.

They said the most pressing concern is the lack of Defense Contract Management Agency inspectors.

“These inspectors are required to audit and approve parts and operations throughout the manufacturing process for military products,” Blakey and Farrell wrote. “The manufacturing process must stop if these inspections and certifications are not performed.”

The industry groups also said they were worried that the Defense Finance and Accounting Service will stop operating, which they were informed would occur next week even though funds appropriated in previous years could be available.

Republicans have urged the Pentagon to bring its civilian employees back to work, arguing that a law passed on Monday to pay the military in a shutdown also makes furloughs of civilians unnecessary.

The Pentagon said it is still reviewing the law. Roughly half of the Defense Department’s 800,000 employees have been furloughed in the shutdown.