As Boehner Resigns, Pentagon Warns Troops and Employees of Shutdown

  • Congress and troops
  • John Boehner. Photo by Susan Walsh/AP
    John Boehner. Photo by Susan Walsh/AP

House Speaker John Boehner's resignation announcement came the same day the Pentagon prepared for a government shutdown next week, warning that troops may not get paid and civilian employees may face furloughs.

Following Boehner's stunning announcement, House Republicans said that there was now agreement on passing a short-term continuing resolution to keep funding the government past the Sept. 30 deadline. Agreement on funding had been slowed by moves in the House and Senate to defund Planned Parenthood.

Several members of the House Freedom Caucus, the GOP group which had revolted against Boehner's leadership and backed cutting funds to Planned Parenthood, said they would now support a spending bill separate from any action against Planned Parenthood.

"The commitment has been made that there will be no shutdown," said Rep. John Fleming, R-Louisiana, The Washington Post reported.

(A spokeswoman for Fleming later said the quote was taken out of context and should have included that Fleming would vote against any measure that would also fund Planned Parenthood.)

Before Boehner announced his resignation, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work sent a memo to all Pentagon personnel saying "all military personnel would continue in normal duty status" in the event of a shutdown. "However, they would not be paid until Congress provides funding."

Work also said the department also has drawn up lists of who would continue to work and who would be furloughed among civilian personnel.

"Your chain of command will begin reaching out to you to provide additional detail on our contingency plans and your status under a potential lapse" in funding, he said.

The last government shutdown for 16 days in 2013 stalled efforts by the Veterans Affairs Department to reduce the claims backlog, delayed job training for service members and hit hard on small businesses contracting with the Defense Department, the federal Office of Management and Budget reported at the time.

Then-Pentagon Comptroller Bob Hale estimated the cost to the Pentagon in lost productivity during the shutdown at $600 million, and Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell put the overall cost to the federal government at "roughly $2 billion in terms of lost productivity."

A report by OMB on the 16 days of furloughs and closed facilities "makes clear that the costs and impacts of the shutdown were significant and widespread, and demonstrates why this type of self-inflicted wound should not occur again," Burwell said.

Of the total of 6.6 million work days lost by federal workers through furloughs, the Defense Department accounted for about 1.6 million, OMB report said.

Work and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter have already warned that a continuing resolution to avoid a shutdown would do little to ease the Department's long-range budget problems brought on by the cost-cutting sequester process.

Todd Harrison, a defense budget analyst at the Center for Strategic and International studies tweeted that agreement on a short-term continuing resolution was "probably not a good sign for the Fiscal Year 2016 defense budget. Odds of a full year CR just went up."

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

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