Defense Department Issues Memo Preparing for Possible Government Shutdown

Pentagon leaders say they hope Congress can reach an agreement and avoid a government shutdown, but they are planning for the worst. DOD photo.

The Pentagon has issued a memo detailing how it will continue essential operations in case the government shuts down. The issue is looming because while the House approved a temporary spending measure Thursday night, its fate in the Senate remains unclear, and the existing continuing resolution funding the government expires at midnight on Friday.

Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, in a memo dated Thursday, expressed the Trump administration’s desire to avoid a government shutdown, but said “prudent management” requires the Pentagon to be prepared for a lapse in appropriations.

A 12-page attachment provides instructions for continuation of essential operations in case the funds run out. The department, he said, “will, of course, continue to prosecute the war in Afghanistan and the ongoing operations against al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, including preparation of forces for deployment into those conflicts.” It must also continue many other operations “necessary for the safety of human life or the protection of property.”

Other than these “excepted” activities all other activities must be shut down, including most temporary duty travel, according to the memo.

Service members who are on Active Duty would continue in normal duty status, regardless of whether they are affiliated with excepted or unexcepted functions, according to the memo. However, “Military personnel will not be paid until such time as Congress makes appropriated funds available to compensate them for this period of service,” the memo said.

Civilian personnel who are needed to carry out or support excepted activities are to continue in normal duty status but they, too, will not be paid until Congress appropriates funds.

“Civilian employees paid for lapsed appropriations and who are not necessary to carry out or support excepted activities will be furloughed, i.e., placed in a nonwork, nonpay status,” the memo said.

“To repeat, the Secretary and I hope that Congress will pass a funding bill and the DOD will avoid a shutdown,” Shanahan wrote. “This guidance is intended to support prudent planning.”

Meanwhile, two Senate Democrats, Sen. Jack Reed (R.I.), the senior Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, and Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the senior Democrat on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, introduced legislation aimed at ensuring military service members continue to receive pay and related compensation if the government shuts down. It also helps ensure that civilian Pentagon employees who provide support for the military can report to work and be paid, as well as providing for death benefits for the families of service members killed overseas.

“If the government does shut down, Republicans must join Democrats in passing this bill to ensure our troops and the civilians who support them are paid. Our troops should be able to focus on their mission without worrying about whether or not they’ll get paid,” Reed said.

“This bill would make sure that all Active Duty, Reservists, National Guard troops, as well as any civilians and contractors working in support of those forces can do their jobs and receive their paychecks. Congress needs to take bipartisan action to ensure the financial well-being and readiness of our troops and those who support them.” he said.