Civilian workers back to work at Nellis, Creech Air Force bases

A weekend memo from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel cleared the way for civilian workers at Nellis and Creech Air Force bases to return to work Monday, along with more than 500 Nevada National Guard technicians who will be back on the job Tuesday. Both groups were benched by the ongoing federal shutdown.

That means the commissary at Nellis, which closed Oct. 1 at the onset of the congressional budget impasse, has reopened. Also, 1,100 workers at the bases who were furloughed have returned to their jobs, said Tech Sgt. Erin Worley, a Nellis spokeswoman.

“The commissary has re-opened and will be open for normal operating hours,” she wrote in a Monday news release. Other facilities at Nellis that resumed operations include those for lodging, arts and crafts, outdoor recreation, the community center, gun club, golf course and child development centers.

Hagel released a guidance memo Saturday for implementing the Pay Our Military Act at defense installations.

While the secretary’s directive put roughly 90 percent of Department of Defense personnel back on the job, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Monday that should not lessen the urgency for Congress to pass a spending bill to get all federal employees back to work.

“Hagel has brought back some people, these are essential people,” Reid said. “There are thousands and thousands of other people who are not back to work. Why would that relieve the pressure?”

Hours before appropriated funding for the 2013 fiscal year expired on Sept. 30, President Barack Obama signed the Pay Our Military Act that Congress had passed. The act provides money “for specified purposes” while interim or full-year appropriations aren’t available for the 2014 fiscal year.

“This provision provides the Department with funds necessary to pay our military members (including Reserve Component members) on active duty or full-time National Guard duty,” Hagel’s memo reads.

Nevada National Guard spokesman Dennis Fournier, an Air Force major, said normal operations and support activities will resume Tuesday “with no impact on the Guard’s ability to respond to federal contingencies or state and local emergencies.”

“The shutdown’s effect on the Guard has been largely transparent to the majority of Nevada’s citizens,” Fournier said in a news release.

The Guard’s workforce in Nevada includes both military and civilian technicians who support personnel, finance, administration and maintenance activities. Because of the federal shutdown, a weekend drill that draws about 4,400 Guard members for wartime and domestic missions training was postponed.

The Nevada National Guard includes more than 3,200 soldiers and 1,150 airmen. Their combined payroll in 2012 was more than $105 million.

Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault contributed to this report.

Contact reporter Keith Rogers at krogers@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0308.