Col. Chris Philbrick never thought they were coming, and now he has the paperwork to prove it.

"I'm no longer planning for what to do with a civilian furlough," Philbrick said on Tuesday.

During the month of December, Philbrick, the garrison commander at Fort Irwin, was suspicious of the possibility of civilian layoffs at Fort Irwin due to Department of Defense budget woes. With that in mind though, he still developed a plan for how the desert post would function if civilians had to be let go. A few weeks ago, Philbrick said he received a message from the Department of Defense saying those plans were no longer needed.

Just before the holidays last year, the Army braced for a potential round of layoffs for civilian employees after a spending bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan stalled in Congress. Army posts across the country were asked to cut spending and prepared for furloughs for as many as 100,000 civilians and 100,000 contract employees by mid-February.

However, with Congress returning to session for the first time in 2008, Army officials in Washington and at Fort Irwin are confident the money woes will be solved without sending civilians home.

"We're confident Congress will take action," said David Foster, an Army spokesman in Washington, D.C.

Congress' inability to act, in part due to partisan arguments over funding for the war and disapproval from the president, threatened key funding. First, Congress failed to push through a supplemental war budget for Iraq and Afghanistan, causing the Army to dip into funds mark for civilian employees. Next, Bush vetoed the 2008 Defense Authorization Act, which sets military spending for 2008, just after Congress recessed in December. That froze funds, including bonuses given to new recruits and soldiers who reenlist, and froze a pay raise for the troops.

President Bush had rejected an earlier version of the legislation because he said it would expose the Iraqi government to expensive lawsuits.

Democrats on Tuesday planned to send the bill back to the House Armed Services Committee, which then would quickly redraft the measure to address Bush's concerns and send it back to the floor for a final vote by week's end.

The new bill is expected to increase troop pay by 3.5 percent, retroactive to Jan. 1. Overall, the bill authorizes about $696 billion in defense spending, including $189 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition to setting pay raises for service members, the bill's primary purpose is to guide Pentagon policy, including setting restrictions on the Pentagon's multibillion-dollar acquisition program.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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