Mattis: Pay, Maintenance, Training to Halt in Government Shutdown

President Donald Trump walks with Defense Secretary James Mattis following a meeting at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Jan. 18, 2018 (DoD/U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)
President Donald Trump walks with Defense Secretary James Mattis following a meeting at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Jan. 18, 2018 (DoD/U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

Active-duty troops would still report for duty, but pay, basic maintenance and intelligence operations in the military would essentially come to a halt in a government shutdown, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Friday.

By law, troops and federal workers can't be paid during a shutdown, but whether it would have any impact on military pay would depend on how long it lasted. The next paychecks are due to go out around Feb. 1.

In a memo to all Defense Department personnel, Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said, "During a government shutdown, all active-duty military personnel would continue in a normal duty status; however, they would not be paid until Congress provides funding."

The most recent government shutdown in 2013 lasted 16 days, but Congress at the time passed an emergency bill to ensure that military pay would not be interrupted.

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Nearly all reserve training also would be canceled if Congress fails to reach a deal for a continuing resolution on the budget before a shutdown begins at midnight Friday, Mattis said during a speech to outline the Pentagon's new National Defense Strategy.

In addition, "any number of projects that are handled by civilians" at the Defense Department would also be put on hold, he said in response to questions at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

In short, "it's got a terrible impact," Mattis said, putting the blame directly on Congress' failure for years to come up with a bipartisan consensus on funding the military. "We have got to come to grips with this as a nation."

The House on Thursday approved a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government in operation until Feb. 16 pending an overall agreement on a budget proposal that would give the military nearly $700 billion in fiscal 2018.

It would be the fourth CR since the current fiscal year began Oct. 1, but Republicans as of midday Friday lacked the votes for passage in the Senate.

On Friday afternoon, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, went to the White House in a last-ditch effort to reach a solution with President Donald Trump.

Should Congress fail to pass a CR before the midnight deadline, "Our maintenance activities will pretty much shut down," Mattis said.

In addition, "over 50 percent of our [civilian] workforce will be furloughed" with resulting impacts on medical facilities at military bases, and contracting will be postponed, he said.

Ships at sea will continue to sail, and those guiding drones will stay at their desks, Mattis said. But "we do a lot of intelligence work around the world," he said. "Those obviously would stop" until Congress and the White House can get on the same wavelength on military funding, he said.

The secretary said the troops have committed to doing their duty, and now members of Congress must do theirs.

"For too long, we have asked our military to stoically carry a 'success at any cost' attitude, as they worked tirelessly to accomplish the mission with inadequate and misaligned resources simply because the Congress could not maintain regular order," he said. "Loyalty must be a two-way street.

"We expect the magnificent men and women of our military to be faithful in their service, even when going in harm's way. We must remain faithful to those who voluntarily sign a blank check to the American people, payable with their lives," Mattis said.

On Thursday, Mattis, Shanahan and the Joint Chiefs of Staff briefed Trump at the Pentagon on the impacts of a shutdown on the military.

A White House statement Friday said Trump "emphasized the role of the Congress in this potential shutdown and the need for members of Congress to move quickly to approve a budget so our nation remains fully protected."

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at

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