“[U.S. Afghanistan Commander] Gen. Dunford has expressed strong concern, but we have not yet identified a legal way to make these payments during a lapse of appropriations,” Hale said. “We're trying our best.”
“We have no authority to do that under the law until we get beyond this lapse,” he said. “This is a unique authority that expired after the appropriation bill lapsed.”
At Thursday’s House Armed Services hearing, Hale laid out how the Pentagon is still feeling the shutdown.
Much of the hearing focused on the fight over the Pentagon’s death benefits, which were not paid out when the shutdown began until Wednesday.
There was also a dispute over whether the Pentagon could have allowed all of its civilian workers to return under the military pay law that was passed in the hours before the shutdown began last week.
Hale said that all but 7,000 Pentagon civilians are back on the job this week, as more than 95 percent of the 350,000 workers who were furloughed were recalled due to the “Pay Our Military Act,” which allowed civilians who support service members to avoid furloughs.
Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) said that Congress intended to allow all civilians to return to work, but Hale said Pentagon lawyers interpreted the measure as requiring Defense Secretary Chuck HagelChuck HagelWho will temper Trump after he takes office? Hagel: I’m ‘encouraged’ by Trump’s Russia outreach Want to 'drain the swamp'? Implement regular order MORE to determine which civilians provided direct support to service members.
In addition to the furloughs, Hale said reserve training has been disrupted due to the shutdown, as most weekend drills have been halted.