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How a shutdown would affect troops, families

Apr. 7, 2011 - 05:49PM   |   Last Updated: Apr. 7, 2011 - 05:49PM  |  
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If the government shuts down at midnight on Friday, what are service members and Defense Department civilians expected to do? How will they be paid? What installation functions will remain open?

The intensifying budget crisis on Capitol Hill has sparked many concerns throughout the military community. While some details remain unclear, Pentagon officials have put out guidance in a number of key areas. Here's a rundown of what is known:

Reporting for duty

Uniformed service members are not subject to furlough and must report to duty as normal during a shutdown. Reserve component personnel should refer to the DoD Contingency Guidance document and to their chain of command for specific information.

DoD civilian personnel must still report to work on their next scheduled duty day at their normal time and await further instructions.

The military will continue to conduct operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Japan, Libya-related support operations, and "other operations and activities essential to the security of our nation," Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn said in a message to the DoD workforce Thursday.

Pay

If the government shuts down, the Defense Department will have no funds to pay service members or civilian employees for the days during which the government is shut down.

The first payday that could be affected is April 15. So military and civilian personnel will receive one week of pay on that date for their work during the first week of April, but not for the second week, if the shutdown lasts beyond that payday.

All service members and civilian employees who are required to work without pay would have any delayed pay made up in full when the shutdown ends.

Military retirees are not paid from annually appropriated funds, so their benefits should continue without interruption.

Commissaries

Commissaries will be closed during a government shutdown under DoD's current planning guidance, said Pentagon spokeswoman Air Force Maj. Monica Matoush.

The Defense Commissary Agency has asked for a redesignation of some employees in order to keep overseas stores open, but a decision on that has not been made.

Health care

Inpatient and essential outpatient care in military medical treatment facilities, emergency dental care will continue. Tricare spokesman Austin Camacho told the Defense Department newspaper Stars and Stripes that beneficiaries would see no loss of service or care.

Child care

Nonappropriated fund activities such as child care centers will be open in a limited capacity to accommodate active-duty personnel who must report to work, Matoush said.

Schools

Department of Defense Education Activity Schools and certain other education and training activities will remain open.

In addition, installation mess halls, contracting and logistics operations that support the "excepted" activities listed above, and financial management activities necessary to ensure the control and accountability of funds will continue to operate.

A shutdown would have little effect on military exchange operations, because the majority of their budgets do not rely on taxpayer dollars. "While the federal government shuts down, business at the exchange remains largely unchanged," said Col. Virgil Williams, chief of staff for the Army and Air Force Exchange Service. "However, some transactions may be delayed, such as the purchase of firearms which require background checks or other federal government actions."

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