Should federal funding stop Saturday, here is what Soldiers, Reservists, Guard Members and Civilians can expect.

If the government shuts down, here’s what to expect

If a government shutdown hits October 1, one thing is clear: active-duty troops, whether deployed or at home, should expect to keep going to work every day while missing paychecks, starting with the one on October 13. But many kinds of routine military business may be put on hold.

Going TDY? It could be canceled if it’s for routine training, but still on if you’re supporting deployed troops. Need some repairs in base housing? If your base contracts with local repair shops, you might have to wait. Medical procedures? They’re probably still on if deemed medically necessary, but you’ll probably need a raincheck if it’s “elective.” How about a drill weekend for the Guard or Reserve? Plan on that not happening, and not getting paid for it. But if you’re a veteran who needs medical care from the VA or GI Bill benefits, you’re probably fine.

In all, a government shutdown is likely to send ripples of confusion through much of the military, with different rules in place for active-duty troops, civilian employees, veterans, and even the small businesses that run day-to-day services like chow halls.

Active Duty
For active-duty members, the White House confirmed Tuesday that delayed paychecks will affect all 1.3 million active-duty troops in the military. 

The first missed paycheck would come October 13 (a Friday payday before the normal October 15 pay date, which is a Sunday).

All can expect full back pay when the shutdown ends but will likely have to go without cash in their pockets for the duration.

“Servicemembers would continue working every day to keep our country safe, including our 1.3 million active-duty troops,” the White House said in a release. But military members “wouldn’t receive their paychecks until funding becomes available. Hundreds of thousands of their civilian colleagues in the Department of Defense would also be furloughed.”

A “shutdown” is a shorthand term for the cash crunch that could hit the entire federal government on October 1 if the current federal budget expires before next year’s budget is approved by Congress.

Under shutdown rules, the Pentagon has classified nearly all typical active-duty jobs as “excepted” activities, including all deployed and contingency operations and the “administrative, logistical, medical, and other activities in direct support of such operations and activities; training and exercises required to achieve and maintain operational readiness.”

A Pentagon planning document spells out how a shutdown will affect a wide range of active-duty situations.

·         Deployed troops. Like active-duty troops at home, forces overseas will continue with operations while possibly missing paychecks. The first missed paycheck would be October 15. In particular, Pentagon officials said they expect the US presence in Europe under “Operation Atlantic Resolve” would not be affected, nor will operations in Syria and Iraq.

·         Recruiting/Basic Training. Recruits will continue to enlist through local field offices, Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS), and boot camp in all five services.

·         Permanent Changes of Station. Most moves will continue for troops moving to new jobs and bases but moves from “excepted” activities to “non-excepted” activities — such as a final retirement move — will be at a commander’s discretion.

·         Military separations. If you were approved and your separation funded before the shutdown’s start, you can still get out. If not, that DD214 may be on hold.

·         TDY. Travel in support of military operations in Iraq and Syria and against terrorist groups would continue. But most routine travel to conferences and professional military education would be canceled.

·         Medical. Emergency, acute, and “wounded warrior” care will continue but “elective” medical and dental surgeries and procedures would be delayed. This does not apply to private sector care under TRICARE.

Veterans, Guard, Reserve, and civilians
·         Veterans. Perhaps best positioned to weather a shutdown are veterans who rely on services through the Department of Veterans Affairs. According to the VA’s in-house planning guide, nearly all of the agency’s 400,000 employees operate outside of the government’s annual funding process, so nearly all services will be open. At a press conference last week, VA Secretary Denis McDonough said a shutdown would not impact veteran healthcare, burials at VA national cemeteries, or benefits like compensation, pension, education, and housing. What will be constrained is the VA’s “outreach to veterans,” McDonough said–like regional VA offices that offer career counseling and transition assistance.

·         Guard and Reserve. Troops on active status (AGR) will continue to work, similar to active duty. However, non-active training, including annual and monthly drill formations, will not be held. “Reserve component personnel will not perform inactive duty,” the Pentagon’s planning document says. Those cancellations will cost reserve members, said Mario Marquez, Director of National Security at The American Legion. “Servicemembers and their families should be able to rely on the consistency and continuity of every critical paycheck,” Marquez told Task & Purpose.

·         Civilian military employees. Most civilians employed directly by the Pentagon would face furloughs, the White House confirmed Tuesday. The Pentagon employs close to 700,000 civilians across the military, in jobs ranging from weapons and equipment maintenance to classified IT support to overseeing the vast training ranges in which troops drill for combat. As a result, Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said active-duty troops could see training events as large as regional training exercises canceled if furloughed civilian employees are not available to support them.

·         Military contractors. Perhaps most unclear is the effect a shutdown would have on the thousands of civilian businesses that often-run key services on military bases and deployments, from sustainment of weapon systems to lodging and chow halls. Among many routine roles, nearly all workers involved with base housing — from on-call maintenance specialists to construction workers building new homes and barracks — are civilian contractors.

Across the Department of Defense, contractors will work — or not work — under the terms of their contract. Employees will still work if their contract has already been paid. Others with rolling contracts, like those paid month to month, would not be funded to work. With a few high-priority exceptions, the decision to work would be made by the contracted company, not the military.

By Matt White, Patty Nieberg – Task & Purpose