U.S. military personnel overseas will get to watch the NFL conference championships games Sunday, after the broadcasts originally were deemed a non-essential service and canceled as part of the government shutdown, according to the Defense Department.
“Despite the government shutdown, (the department) determined the operational necessity of television and radio broadcasts constitutes them as essential activities,” chief Defense Department spokeswoman Dana White said. “We will continue to find solutions to support our troops at home and abroad.”
Her announcement followed outcry about overseas U.S. service members not being able to see the two games Sunday afternoon, particularly since officials have said military personnel won’t get paid during the furlough, which started overnight Friday.
White described some legal and manpower maneuvering to get the games on air. She said two of the eight Armed Forces Network channels -- news and sports -- will remain on, despite the network being run by civilians, who have been furloughed in the shutdown.
“With minimal manning, we can keep the sports channel up without incurring any additional cost or manpower-complying with shutdown guidance," White said in a statement. “Thanks to uniform leadership at AFN, our comptroller and legal team.”
She said the news channel remains on because the contract has already been paid and the sports channel was turned on because “it doesn't cost any more money or manpower to manage a second channel.”
Still, White had some sharp words for Congress, whose failure to pass a temporary spending resulted in the shutdown.
“The shutdown requires us to do a lot of tedious work,” she said. “Congress needs to pass a budget.”
Earlier in the day, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sander tweeted: “Update: @DeptofDefense has informed us that AFN has been restored in most places. Glad our brave men and women can watch the game today.”
And the NFL tried to help by offering the troops free access to the games through its NFL Game Pass service.
AFN reportedly had received complaints this weekend because service was not cut off during the 2013 government shutdown, with servicemen and women tweeting unusual messages on their TV screens from the network.
The AFC and NFC conference championships are the Jacksonville Jaguars vs. New England Patriots for the AFC title at 3:05 p.m., followed by the Minnesota Vikings taking on the Philadelphia Eagles for the NFC title at 6:40 p.m., Eastern times.
The two winners are set to compete in Super Bowl 52 in Minneapolis on Feb. 4.
Fox News' Joseph Weber contributed to this report.