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DHS Shutdown Would Halt Coast Guard Active Duty and Retiree Pay

About 42,000 active duty members of the Coast Guard would work without pay and nearly 34,000 retirees would have their retirement checks suspended if Congress can't settle an agreement over funding for the Department of Homeland Security by Friday.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft said Monday that the Coast Guard operations in law enforcement to include drug interdictions and ship inspections would be curtailed if Congress failed to reach agreement on $40 billion in funding for DHS.

Fiscal Year 2015 funding for the Department of Homeland Security is tied to a bill that would scuttle the executive actions by President Obama on undocumented immigrants. The bill passed the House but has been dead locked by filibusters in the Senate.

Zukunft said without a new budget the Coast Guard would be limited on routine law enforcement patrols and facility inspections, fisheries enforcement, mariner licensing and credentialing, vessel inspections and recreational boating safety.

Pentagon officials said there were no immediate plans to have the Navy provide backup for the Coast Guard in the event that Congress fails to appropriate funding for DHS.

"If our appropriations lapse, Coast Guard men and women standing watch globally will not be paid," Zukunft said in his message. "Further, over 6,000 valuable Coast Guard civilians -- or nearly three-quarters of our total civilian workforce -- will be furloughed, again with no guarantee of pay."

A funding lapse will also impact retired Coast Guard personnel, Zukunft said. "These dedicated veterans, who often live on fixed incomes, will not receive their retired pay," he said.

In addition, "unreliable funding jeopardizes aircraft, cutter and boat maintenance and operations," Zukunft said. "It unnecessarily places an increased burden on our extraordinary people – 88,000 active duty, reserve, civilian and auxiliary members – who go into harm's way every day. They deserve safe and effective operational platforms."

Zukunft also warned that a funding cutoff will lead to delays in contract negotiations to construct a new National Security Cutter and inevitably cause "a significant increase in costs" and a postponement of the delivery date.

The new ship was "urgently needed to replace aging and unreliable" cutters in drug interdiction and law enforcement operations," Zukunft said.

The 42,190 active duty and 7,900 Coast Guard reservists currently serve aboard 244 cutters, 1,776 boats and 198 aircraft, according to Coast Guard statistics.

Danielle Medolla, a Coast Guard civilian employee and spouse, wrote for Military.com's Spouse Buzz blog that "the words 'shut down, furlough and budget cuts' have become everyday language in our life."

"Now as a Coast Guard civilian employee, the lapse in funding will mean that come March we will have a monthly income of ZERO until this is rectified," she wrote.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at richard.sisk@military.com

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