The US military and their nearly 1.4 million troops will have to remain on the job if the government shuts down tonight at midnight. The troops will be forced to remain on the job without pay, and roughly half of the Pentagon’s 800,000 civilian employees will be furloughed without pay, and back pay is not guaranteed when the government starts up again.
The remaining 400,000 employees would not get paid either.
Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter wrote in a memo outlining what was going to happen during the shutdown that “military personnel will not be paid until such time as Congress makes appropriated funds available to compensate them for this period of service.”
Additionally, most training and a lot of maintenance work would have to be cancelled if the shutdown occurs. Pentagon financial officer Robert Hale told reporters that “We wouldn’t be able to do most training, we couldn’t enter into most new contracts, routine maintenance would have to stop.”
For many troops and their families already teetering on the financial edge, this could push them over, and for the Pentagon’s civilian employees, already hurt by sequestration, this could lead to financial ruin.
Additionally, any death benefit payments which are suppose to go out to the families of members of the military slain during the shutdown would be delayed.
Democratic Senator Carl Levin, the chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that “A shutdown would require our troops to go into combat while receiving only an IOU, put hundreds of thousands of DoD (Department of Defense) civilians on furlough without pay, and could even delay death benefits to the families of troops who fall in combat.”
The Pentagon noted that the vital services include medical care, mess halls, child care, legal offices, logistics, training, department schools and some parts of the accounting sections. Most naval operations would remain unaffected, including those deployed to the Mediterranean to monitor Syria.
The National Guard would cancel all training unless it is in direct relation to being deployed to Afghanistan.
Hale noted that the talk of a shutdown was “one more blow to the morale of our civilian workforce.” Morale was already in the basement, apparently, following the sequester cuts.
The Pentagon already has had to furlough more than 600,000 civilian workers due to those cuts.