Pentagon officials have furloughed an estimated half of the Defense Department's civilian workforce. House Republicans are angry over this development because they passed legislation specifically to prevent it in the event of a federal government shutdown.

In a statement Monday regarding the then-potential funding stop, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel stated: "While military personnel around the world would continue to serve in a normal duty status, a large number of civilian employees and contractors would likely be temporarily furloughed."

How large a number? Reports put the number at 400,000 workers. That is out of an 800,000-member workforce.

Hagel added: "[F]urlough decisions are dictated solely by the law, which only permits us to direct civilians to work if they are required to continue supporting military operations or if they are required to protect DoD personnel and property."

That's not so, Republicans claim. In a letter to Hagel Tuesday, Rep. Howard McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, demanded he rectify this immediately:

As you know ... H.R. 3210, the Pay Our Military Act ... was signed into law last night. With the enactment of this law, active duty uniformed personnel can continue to be paid for their service and most civilian defense workers should stay on the job. ...

I believe the legislation provides you with broad latitude and I encourage you to use it. ... Therefore, I strongly encourage you to use the authority Congress has given you to keep national security running, rather than keeping defense civilians at home when they are authorized to work.

The letter concludes: "I know you would agree with me that this is no time to use national security or our national security workforce as a political pawn."