Stars & Stripes magazine is reporting the Pentagon has begun sprucing up its contingency plans in the wake of the pending government shutdown that would result from an unresolved budget impasse in Congress.
In a Sept. 19 article by Chris Carroll, the magazine noted that with less than two weeks to the new fiscal year and no funding authority in place, the Pentagon has begun reviewing contingency plans for navigating a government shutdown. The Office of Management and Budget has instructed federal agencies to start preparations to shutter most operations, leaving only “excepted” activities in place to continue if funding lapses. In previous such situations, “excepted” activities were said to be those essential to maintain the safety of life and property.
DOD officials acknowledged that the Pentagon has faced this issue many times in recent years as a deadlocked Congress and the President battled contentious political issues, everything ranging from the national debt to – this week- the Affordable Healthcare Law. Republican and Tea Party members of Congress are demanding funding for the law be stripped away from any measure to fund government operations. This opposition movement has the voting power in the House of Representatives to enforce its threat of no voting to fund the government. However, the balance of power is quite the opposite in the Senate. There, support for the healthcare law is strongly in favor of funding the measure.
As time quickly winds down, the Pentagon has directed local commanders to prioritize which civilian employees are essential to keep on the job to satisfy the protection of life and property responsibility. Officials have estimated that half the civilian workforce would be sent home without pay while the remainder would continue to work in a delayed pay status.
Active duty servicemembers have been told they will still be required to report for duty, staying on their jobs, serving their country, even though that country would, temporarily, not being paying them. It was noted however, that military personnel and civilians both would eventually receive all back pay.
Veterans, Take Heart!
Stars & Stripes reported in this same article that unlike the Department of Defense, the Dept. of Veterans Affairs is funded by multi-year Congressional appropriations. Because this unique arrangement, VA operations would continue in the likelihood of a government shutdown. Some services could be affect, however, including processing of new claims. In past shutdown threats, medical facilities and clinics remained fully operational and benefit payments continued. Processing of claims for education, life insurance, home loans and other benefits also continued to flow, but there was some delay in the time it took to complete their processing. It is possible that VA call centers and hot lines could cease operation. Officials also noted that processing of new benefits claims would be suspended and regional Veterans Benefits Administration offices could be closed during this time.