Hagel recalls most defense staff

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The Pentagon has ordered roughly 400,000 furloughed civilian employees back to work.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the worker recall in a department-wide memorandum issued Saturday.

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After consulting with the Justice Department and Department of Defense legal counsel, Hagel noted furloughed employees could be brought back to the Pentagon, while still complying with federal guidelines governing the shutdown, according to the memo.

Civilian workers at DOD shown to play a role in the "morale, well-being [and]...readiness" of U.S. forces could be brought back, under federal rules, Hagel wrote.

Pentagon Comptroller Bob Hale is scheduled to hold a briefing on the details of the recall later today.

Lawmakers praised the Pentagon's decision to put the department's civilian workforce back on the federal pay roll.

"Congress fully intended for all of our civilian defense workers to be treated the same as our active duty military members," House Armed Services Committee member Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) said in a statement Saturday.

"All [federal employees] are vital to our national defense and need to be on the job protecting the nation," he added.

While supportive of the Pentagon's decision, Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) said the move would have been unnecessary if Obama had not "been playing politics" with civilian furloughs.

The White Houses "should not have furloughed these hard working men and women," Turner said in a statement Saturday.

"They should have been allowed to work through this entire shutdown," the House defense panel member said, adding Obama is using federal workers as "bargaining chips" in the ongoing shutdown stand off with congressional Republicans.

"These men and women are crucial to our country's national defense and I am glad they will be allowed to go back to work this week to support our armed forces," he added.

Turner's comments echoed those of House Armed Services Committee chief Rep. Buck McKeon(R-Calif.), who lauded Hagel's decision but slammed Obama for ordering the furloughs.

"I am very pleased to see so many of our national security workforce will be able to return to work." McKeon said in a statement Saturday.

"Though I do not believe the law required these hundreds of thousands of workers to be furloughed in the first place, it is welcome news," he added.

Hagel's order comes hours after House lawmakers approved legislation to issue back pay to furloughed federal workers.

Members approved the Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act, H.R. 3223, in a 407-0 vote, with 25 members not voting.

President Obama is expected to sign the measure into law, once the legislation clears the Senate.