U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Charles Morgan

Shutdown Could Crimp Pentagon Training and Confuse Contractors

Despite the Defense Department’s recall of half of its furloughed civilians, the government shutdown could create uncertainty in the military’s training programs and delay contractor payments in ways that affect the national security supply chain, according to a report released Monday by the Congressional Research Service.

Made public by the nonprofit Center for Effective Government, the report reviews the Pay Our Military Pay Act that Congress passed last week, giving Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel authority to recall most of the civilian employees who previously had been denied “excepted” status, because their “responsibilities contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities and readiness of service members.”

[Read Defense One’s complete coverage of the government shutdown here]

But the report cautioned that “though authority to sustain ongoing military operations is clear in principle, a lapse in appropriations, if it were to extend for more than a very limited period of time, could disrupt operations to some degree.” It continued: “Efforts to distinguish between, on the one hand, those activities that are sufficiently important for national security to warrant continuation during a lapse in appropriations, and, on the other hand, activities that do not directly support national security, involve difficult, and to some degree, arbitrary judgments. Unit training would continue for some combat units, but not for others, depending on their place in deployment or force generation plans.”

The shutdown’s impact on contractor personnel is unclear, CRS analysts added. “While some new contract obligations to support ‘excepted’ activities could be signed, monies could not be disbursed while other new contracts would be delayed,” the report said. “This could create some confusion and, potentially, disruptions to supplies of some material and services, particularly if full funding for DoD is not restored soon.”