Here’s How a Shutdown Would Affect the Pentagon

Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale speaking to reporters during a press briefing on Friday

Jacquelyn Martin/AP

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Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale speaking to reporters during a press briefing on Friday

As the standoff in Congress continues, officials release more details about the impact on Defense Department operations. By Stephanie Gaskell

If Congress fails to reach agreement on a short-term funding measure keeping government open, uniformed military service members will continue to work — but they won’t get paid until Congress appropriates the funds. Some civilian workers will stay on the job, but they, too, won’t see a paycheck until after the shutdown ends, Defense officials said Friday. Other civilians will be furloughed, possibly with no pay at all.

Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter sent a memo to DoD employees on Friday morning detailing who would be affected under a shutdown scenario. Later in the day, Pentagon Comptroller Bob Hale issued a warning of the effects of a shutdown, especially with the threat of another round of sequestration on the horizon. And the department put up a website so workers could look up specific information about possible furloughs.

As all this was taking place, the Senate voted 54-44 to fund the government through a continuing resolution that lasts until Nov. 15. The action now shifts back to the House.

If the House and Senate can’t agree, the government effectively shuts down at midnight on Monday. At the Pentagon, military operations will continue, including the war in Afghanistan and operations involving troops serving in the Mediterranean Sea. But if any troops are killed in action after Oct. 1, death benefits will not be paid to their beneficiaries until a deal is reached.  Defense contractors who have a fully-funded contract can continue to work, but new contracts would not be allowed unless they were needed to support essential activities within the department. All temporary duty travel after Oct. 1 will be canceled, unless it’s to Afghanistan, in support of foreign relations duties or related to protecting life or U.S. property.

Personnel not subject to furloughs (who are categorized as “excepted”) are generally those whose jobs are directly related to national security and the protection of life and property. There are other exceptions, covering some medical, logistics and budget personnel.

Hale said his staff has not only been working on contingency plans for an Oct. 1 shutdown, but also trying to mitigate another possible round of sequestration and uncertainty over the fiscal 2015 budget. “Unfortunately, we’re getting good at this,” Hale said. Planning for all these budget uncertainties has taken “thousands of hours” away from the Pentagon’s usual operations, he said. And averting a shutdown through a continuing resolution that only last another six weeks provides little relief.

“We can probably hold our breath for a while,” Hale said, adding that if there’s a CR he hopes Congress gives the Defense Department some flexibility in allocating funds under the temporary spending measure.

For now, the Pentagon’s shutdown guidance remains stamped in red: “Planning Purposes Only: Do Not Implement Until Direction from the Deputy Secretary of Defense.”

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