Disgust Spreads Across DoD in Shutdown's First Day


Parts of the Defense Department -- Air Force missile silos and base fire departments, for instance -- didn't see many changes on the first day of the government shutdown. Other parts, like the meat shelves in commissaries and base education offices saw desperation and closed doors.

The government officially shut down at midnight Monday after the Republican-led House of Representatives and the Democratic-led Senate failed to reach a compromise on a budget or continuing resolution to fund the government for fiscal year 2014.

On Tuesday, troops, civilians, contractors and their families started to witness the fallout following the first government shutdown since the mid-1990s.

Many who talked to Military.com Tuesday seemed resigned to the shutdown -- confident they would receive their paychecks after President Obama signed into law a bill that guarantees military pay during a government shutdown.

Others were frustrated the law didn't protect their pay, especially reservists and their families.

"I'm hoping they cancel my husband's drill," said one Marine Corps Reserve spouse who asked that her name not be used. "I'm out of work and if they don't, he will have to take time off of his civilian job while not getting paid by the military."

The law protects the payments to those under Title 10 orders. Reservists who are not activated for more than 30 days fall under Title 32, not Title 10 and are not included in the legislation protecting military pay.

But across the board, there seemed to be a mood of disgust that elected leaders had let military and government workers down by letting this shutdown occur.

Some took matters into their own hands. A group of World War II veterans who had traveled cross country to tour the World War II memorial on the National Mall in Washington D.C. pushed past barricades that had signs saying the memorial was closed due to the shutdown.

Servicemembers reported to work on time Tuesday like any other day as they will be expected to work throughout the government shutdown. Civilians and contractors working for the Defense Department, who were deemed "non-essential," were the ones who received furlough notices Tuesday morning and will not return to work until the shutdown ends.

All 16,000 civilian workers at the Pentagon were told to report to work Tuesday. Almost half were given furloughs and allowed four hours, for which they will be paid, to clean out their workspaces and turn in office gear, a Pentagon spokesman said.

The "non-essentials" began streaming out of the Pentagon by the thousands before midday Tuesday to begin indefinite "non-duty, non-pay" furloughs brought on by the government shutdown. Similar scenes played out across the Defense Department.

"I can't figure out who to blame, I guess I'll start to get mad when the bills start piling up," said a civilian worker at the Pentagon who had just been given a furlough notice that put her and about half of the 16,000 civilian workers at Defense Department headquarters on indefinite unpaid leave.

Others in the same situation half-heartedly joked about catching up on sleep or getting a start on fall housecleaning as they headed to the parking lots, buses or the subway after cleaning out their desks and putting out-of-office replies on their voice mail and E-mail.

"I'm going to do laundry and try not to spend any money," another furloughed worker said. Many civilians and contractors who spoke to Military.com for this story asked their names not be included for fear of reprisal from employers.

One mid-level manager, who retired from the military, said he won't even watch the coverage on the shutdown anymore because he's so frustrated. He received his furlough notice Tuesday and said he wasn't too worried about himself because of the "cushion" his retirement pay provides.  

"But I have people who work for me who have spouses who are federal workers," he said. "It's going to be tough on them."

Those who did find themselves on the "essential" list and remained at work Tuesday said their workloads, in most cases, doubled to make up for their colleagues who were sent home.

Confusion reigned among many military spouses as the community attempted to sort out information about what is closed during the shutdown -- and what isn't.

"So with this shut down, what all are we left without? Commisary? Some childrens activities?" Army spouse Amanda Gardner, posted on one Facebook page. "I've seen so many different articles and none answer this."

At Fort Campbell, Ky., some facilities closed for the shutdown, like the post library, but did not have signs posted announcing their closure, which added to the confusion.

Base education offices also closed and anger spread as servicemembers found out that tuition assistance payments had been suspended until the government shutdown ends.

Commissary patrons across the country reported massive check-out lines and food shortages as families stockpiled items, especially meat. At Fort Campbell, the shelves that usually house ground beef were bare 45 minutes after the store opened.

"I don't usually buy this much meat, but I am stocking up for three weeks, just in case," one patron said. "With the shutdown, you just don't know."

At Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., some military family members who work as Defense Department civilian employees tried to have a good attitude about their furlough days caused by the shutdown.

"Since the government couldn't do their job I now am not allowed to do mine," said Allie Lovette, a Marine Corps spouse who works at the base library. "We will be OK money wise... (but) we have some civilian employees at the library who are the sole paychecks in their families I worry about.

Lovette said base officials told them they will be paid retroactively when the government reopens for the two hours they worked this morning securing the library and signing their furlough notices.

Ed Gulick, an Air Force spokesman who works in the Pentagon, spent Tuesday with his family in their Virginia home.

"I just want to get back to work," he said.

-- Matthew Cox, Kris Osborn and Bryant Jordan contributed to this report.

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