Pentagon recalls most furloughed civilians

Most of the estimated 400,000 civilian employees furloughed by the Defense Department during the US government shutdown will be recalled to work, Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel said Saturday.

"Today I am announcing that most DoD civilians placed on emergency furlough during the government shutdown will be asked to return to work beginning next week," he said in a statement.

Hagel said Pentagon lawyers had concluded the law allows employees "whose responsibilities contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities and readiness of service members" to be exempted from the shutdown.

"I expect us to be able to significantly reduce -- but not eliminate -- civilian furloughs under this process," he said.

The move came on the fifth day of a government shutdown caused by a budget impasse between the Republican-controlled House and the Democrat-held Senate.

The Defense Department accounts for roughly half of the 800,000 government workers sent home at the start of the shutdown.

Earlier Saturday, the House unanimously approved a measure to pay furloughed government workers retroactively, in a another move to ease the pressure.

But there were no overt signs of negotiations to end the crisis, as leaders of both camps blamed each other.