UPDATE: Military Pay Released Unharmed - The shutdown was averted - at least temporarily - but military servicemembers should have never had to fear for their pay. Read more.
For weeks the DoD has been saying that military pay will likely be put on hold if the federal government shuts down. This seems odd to many of us since military pay has been exempt from government shutdowns over the past 30 years, including the big 21-day shutdown of 1995-1996. So why would they be willing to stop military pay this time?
Today the White House confirmed their intent to stop military pay if the budget impasse is not settled by April 8. So again, one has to ask, why are they so willing to dangle that threat, especially while our troops are in combat. It seems the best answer is the simplest answer – the administration is holding military pay hostage in an attempt to force congress to pass the FY 2011 budget.
What other reason would the Secretary of Defense have for hanging his own people out to dry? Why else would the Commander-in-Chief be willing to cause panic among the servicemembers and their families during time of war?
Call it political gamesmanship or hostage taking, either way the outcome of playing chicken with military pay is the same - panic - as servicemembers and their families fret over the prospect of not being able to pay their bills.
Turning the budget impasse into a hostage negotiation may work to break the stalemate, but the long term collateral damage will not be pretty. The mistrust and anger toward the DoD and White House for willingly putting military pay on the table will likely cost the leadership in political capitol.
Earlier this week, Rep. Gohmert (R-TX) introduced the Ensuring Pay for Our Military Act (H.R. 1297) which would protect military pay from the impact of the budget battle. The bill has bipartisan support and 160 co-sponsors. It appears that this bill may be the only way Congress can save military pay.