Thousands of Colorado Springs-area furloughed workers back on the job

By Tom Roeder Updated: October 8, 2013 at 6:31 am • Published: October 7, 2013 | 7:55 pm 0

Thousands of federal workers in the Pikes Peak region were back on the job Monday, but the tension of the government shutdown remained.

"Everyone is holding their breath to see what happens next," said Fort Carson spokeswoman Dee McNutt. "It's not business as usual yet."

The end of all but a handful of Defense Department furloughs in the Pikes Peak region came after the Pentagon re-interpreted a law approved by Congress last week that authorized pay for troops and the civilian workers who support them. Calls to area installations revealed fewer than a dozen workers off the job Monday.

At Fort Carson, that meant more than 1,000 workers were back to work. Commanders at the post determined that every one of them plays some role in supporting soldiers.

It was a similar story at the Air Force Academy, where more than 1,000 workers, including more than 300 workers on the instructional side of the school, returned to work.

Commissaries on bases are reopening, and other services shuttered by the shutdown are back in business, too. But the Defense Department still faces serious restrictions in spending.

Purchases of supplies or equipment are off the table along with travel, hiring and other activities that require a budget from Congress.

"That certainly can be disruptive and draining," said Col. William Liquori, who commands the 50th Space Wing at Schriever Air Force Base.

Schriever brought back all 392 civilian workers who were furloughed last week. Civilians play a large role in the 50th Space Wing, which controls the military's constellation of satellites, including the Global Positioning System.

"From my perspective each and every one of our civilians is critical here," Liquori said.

Peterson Air Force base had all 2,200 of its civilians back on the job Monday and another 700 were back at U.S. Northern Command.

"The one thing I would want to make clear is we are glad to have them back," said Col. John Shaw, who commands Peterson's 21st Space Wing. "Our problems remain, but now we can attack them as a team."

While teamwork may be the theme at military bases, intramural battles still dominated Congress Monday.

Colorado Springs Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn said the ongoing budget standoff showed no signs of ending Monday.

He said he was getting two kinds of feedback.

First are those who want the shutdown ended.

"Some people are upset we aren't doing more and blame everybody," he said.

The second class of callers are backing the Republican effort to cut off money for Obamacare, which led to the shutdown.

Lamborn said he's working to ease the shutdown's symptoms by pushing for a measure that would return all federal workers to the job and guarantee paychecks.

Lamborn said getting workers back on the job makes sense for taxpayers, because Congress is all but certain to authorize back pay to cover the furloughs.

"Because we're paying these people back pay anyway, we might as well have them working," he said.

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