Government employees have half of Tuesday to prepare for the holidays, as President Bush ordered a half-day of work.

In an executive order issued Thursday, Bush allowed all executive branch departments, to include the military, to close for the last half of the day on Dec. 24. Some employees are excused from duty, the order says.

Last year, Bush gave executive branch workers the whole day off — when Christmas Eve fell on a Monday. Since the 1950s, presidents traditionally allow the Monday off.

A White House spokesman could not explain why only a half-day was authorized this year.

As with past holiday closings, department and agency heads can determine which offices must remain open and keep certain employees on duty for reasons of national security, defense or other public reasons, the order says.

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