Does Shutdown Mean No Pay for Military?


Fueled by recent reports that the DoD would not be sending military paychecks if the government shuts down, many servicemembers are growing fearful about their financial future.

Several news outlets have picked up on a report that troops may miss paychecks in a government shutdown. The reports are based on a 13-page DoD document which is being circulated around the Pentagon. The document lays out a plan for dealing with the shutdown and includes details on how military pay may be dealt with. 

But there are still conflicting reports. For example a recent Boston Globe article lists all the areas of government which have been exempt in the past. The list includes military pay.

Here are the facts as we know them:

  • Military pay was exempt from the ten shutdowns that occurred between 1980 and 1996, and only the 21-day shutdown in 1996 lasted more than three days.

  • Congress passed another extension, which if agreed to by the President will buy another three weeks (April 8) – the fifth continuing resolution for the FY2011 budget.

  • Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz), recently called on Congress to pass a bill that would fund the military regardless of whether an agreement can be reached on the full federal budget.

To be clear, nobody can be certain about what will happen next, but if the past is any indication, active duty servicemembers are not likely to miss any paychecks.

As blogger Kate Horrell explains in her latest installment in the Paycheck Chronicles -- ‘Prepare for the Worst, & Hope for the Best’ -- this is a good opportunity to “think long and hard about how large an emergency fund is necessary to fund [your] family’s day-to-day life.”

Update 3/17/2011 - I contacted the Defense Accounting and Finance Service (DFAS) to see if they could offer any details on how a shutdown would affect military retirement pensions and annuitants. My point of contact (also a military retiree) told me that at this time DFAS has been given no guidance and my POC is unwilling to speculate one way or the other.

Read the latest news and what to do if the government shutdown happens.

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