Budget Impasse Delays 2019 Military Pay Charts Release

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The Pentagon has delayed release of the 2019 military pay charts until Congress and the White House resolve a standoff on the budgets for several federal agencies and border wall funding that threatens a partial government shutdown at midnight Friday.

The 2.6 percent pay raise for military personnel of all ranks is still guaranteed, but the release of the military pay charts, normally distributed in mid-December by the Defense Finance and Accounting Agency (DFAS), has been put on hold because of a wrinkle in the law that could possibly affect four-star ranks.

Top paygrades in the military are capped by law to align with those of the highest federal government civilian pay rate.

However, the top civilian pay rates can't be determined until the budgets for a number of departments and agencies are approved, said a U.S. official who has knowledge of the issue but spoke on the condition of anonymity with Military.com on Tuesday.

Once the budgets are approved, DFAS will need to gauge whether the 2.6 percent pay raise would put the four-star ranks above the highest civilian pay rate.

If that ends up the case, "they've got to be lowered to the cap amount," the official said.

Only after these comparisons occur can DFAS release fully accurate military pay charts for 2019, the official said, adding that other paygrades would not be affected by the stipulation.

DFAS' pay chart release issues stem from Congress' failure to pass spending bills for the Departments of Homeland Security, State, Commerce, Justice, Interior, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and several smaller agencies.

As part of any deal to fund those departments, President Donald Trump has demanded $5 billion for construction of the southern border wall. House and Senate Democrats have offered $1.6 billion for border security measures that would not include wall construction.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that Senate Republican and Democratic leaders have restarted negotiations after the White House signaled that Trump did not want a shutdown.

Unless an agreement is reached by midnight Friday, the unfunded departments will face a shutdown that would affect about 800,000 federal workers. Those whose jobs are considered to affect national security would be asked to work without pay, while others would be furloughed.

In previous shutdowns, all federal workers have been reimbursed when the shutdown ended.

The Defense Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs would not be affected by the threatened shutdown. Both departments are fully funded through this fiscal year.

It was not immediately clear what would happen to the more than 40,000 active-duty Coast Guard personnel, who are part of the Department of Homeland Security and would be affected by a shutdown.

Homeland Security and the Coast Guard referred questions on whether service members would get paid to the White House Office of Management and Budget, which did not immediately respond.

In previous shutdowns, Coast Guard personnel were ordered to work without pay.

-- Executive Editor Amy Bushatz contributed to this story.

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

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