Local airmen, sailors, soldiers, Marines and Coast Guardsmen may miss paychecks and civilians may be kept at home if Congress doesn’t act to prevent a government shutdown later this week.
Although all indicators right now point to no government shutdown, there’s still a chance lawmakers won’t get their acts together before midnight on October 1. While unlikely, as Congress is expected to pass a bill funding the government through December, the Department of Defense has outlined steps the military would take if Congress doesn’t act.
A memo from Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work last week outlined these steps if legislators don’t pass a 2016 appropriations bill by 11:59 p.m. Wednesday night, when the federal fiscal year ends.
Work said he and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter hope Congress will provide an appropriations bill or continuing resolution to prevent the shutdown.
“The administration is willing to work with the Congress to enact a short-term continuing resolution to fund critical government operations and allow Congress the time to complete the full year 2016 appropriations,” he said in the Friday memo.
And while active-duty military personnel will continue in a “normal duty status,” Work said those troops would “not be paid until such time as Congress makes appropriated funds available to compensate them for this period of service.”
However, any delay in pay would not affect checks scheduled to be sent on the day the potential shutdown begins, Oct. 1, as those will have been processed this month.
In preparation for a shutdown, credit unions such as USAA and Navy Federal Credit Union have promised in the past to cover payroll for active-duty members who have enrolled in direct deposit with the banking institutions. USAA officials have said they will make the same pledge if a shutdown occurs this year. Navy Federal Credit Union could not be reached for comment, but honored paychecks during the last shutdown in 2013.
Locally, some officials said they were waiting for guidance on what to do in case of a shutdown. Sara Vidoni, spokeswoman for Eglin Air Force Base, said the Air Force is planning to operate under a range of different scenarios and will prepare its 10,000 airmen and 6,000-strong civilian workforce appropriately.
“Although we have hope for a budget resolution, Air Force leaders are acting to ensure appropriate preparedness for a shutdown,” Vidoni said.
The potential shutdown comes two years after the last government shutdown. During that shutdown, thousands of civilian workers on military installations across the Gulf Coast were put on indefinite furlough, and servicemembers and their families were forced to cut spending in the face of delays to their paychecks.
So what does a shutdown mean for servicemembers and their families?
Yes, active duty servicemembers still have to go to work during a shutdown, even they aren’t being paid.
Unless congress passes a law funding pay for active duty military members during a shutdown like they did in 2013, a government shutdown would mean no paychecks starting October 15 (if the shutdown were to last that long). It could probably also mean canceled drill for National Guard and Reserve members (and, therefore, no drill pay).
DoD Commissaries and Exchanges
The majority of military commissaries would close in the event of a shutdown, just as happened in 2013.
Military base exchanges (gas stations and convenience stores) aren’t paid for with taxpayer dollars, so they will remain open.
Military Hospitals and Clinics
According to the DoD, only inpatient care at military treatment facilities (MTF), emergency and acute care at MTFs, and active duty dental clinics will be excluded from the shutdown. Any care provided by Tricare and wounded warrior medical care would not be covered.
So if you have an appointment at a clinic at an MTF with your primary care provider or a specialist, you might be out of luck.
If your child attends a DoD Education Activity school, they would still be able to go if there is a shutdown. However, all outside school hours activities, like sporting events, would be canceled, according to the memo.
Military PCS Moves and TDY Travel
Unless you’re supporting one of the exempted activities, your military move will be postponed your TDY canceled.