Pentagon Issues Guidance on Shutdown Operations


Managers will reach out to service members and civilian workers throughout the Defense Department Monday to explain contingency plans for each unit should the midnight deadline pass without a federal budget and a government shutdown begins.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the Pentagon has put together plans to continue operations should the government shutdown. Meanwhile, he urged Congress to find a resolution to avoid the shutdown saying it would add further pain to a Defense Department already dealing with sequestration.

"I have joined President Obama in urging Congress to prevent a lapse in appropriations, and like all of you I would be deeply disappointed if Congress fails to fulfill its most basic responsibilities," Hagel said in a statement issued Monday to all Defense Department personnel.

"It would be irresponsible on our part not to prepare for the possibility of a shutdown -- especially given that we don't know what Congress will do over the next 24 hours."

Military leaders have prepared contingencies that will be shared with employees Monday in preparation for a shutdown that would start on Tuesday.

The likelihood of a shutdown increased at 2 p.m. on Monday after the Democrat-led Senate voted down a House spending bill that proposed delaying key portions of the Affordable Care Act. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., has said the Senate would not pass any bill that defunded the Affordable Care Act.

Hagel explained that military personnel will continue to serve in a normal duty status should a shutdown occur, but a "large number of a civilian employees and contractors" will face temporary furloughs.

About half, or 400,000, of the Defense Department's roughly 800,000 civilian employees would be forced to take additional unpaid leaves of absence, known as furloughs, if lawmakers can't agree on a resolution to fund the government through mid-November, according to a senior defense official.

"Only the minimum number of civilian employees necessary to carry out excepted activities will be excepted from furlough," according to contingency plan guidance issued by the Defense Department.

Troops and a select number of civilians will continue to work, but they could see their paychecks delayed should the shutdown extend. All Defense Department employees will receive their Oct. 1 paychecks, but those individuals who receive checks mid-month could see their checks delayed if the shutdown extends past Oct. 9.

Troops and the civilians who work through the shutdown will be compensated as soon as Congress authorizes a stop-gap funding resolution, according to the senior defense official. However, that outcome isn't guaranteed for the 400,000 so-called "non-essential" civilian workers, who would need separate congressional action to be paid retroactively, the official said.

In the event of a shutdown, a senior defense official said that operations in Afghanistan will continue. However, death benefits for service members killed in Afghanistan would be delayed.

The defense secretary, who is in South Korea on a scheduled trip, said he understood the pressure this potential shutdown places servicemembers and civilians as well as their families.

"Sequestration has meant that most of our civilian employees have already had to endure furloughs this year, causing significant stress and hardship, while service members and military families have had to deal with the needless strain of reduced readiness as well as temporary reductions in services essential to their wellbeing," Hagel wrote. "I know the uncertainty of a possible shutdown only adds to the anxiety that I'm sure many of you and your families are feeling." 

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