White House officials on Tuesday warned that a looming government shutdown would undermine national security by delaying service members’ pay and furloughing hundreds of thousands of civilian Defense Department workers.
Operations of most federal agencies are set to halt on Oct. 1 unless members of Congress can agree to a short-term budget extension or long-term government budget before then. As of Tuesday morning, neither chamber had a plan in place to avoid the budget lapse, though Senate leaders had promised to move some legislation later in the day.
In a statement criticizing “extreme House Republicans” for their public opposition to White House-backed funding plans, administration officials noted that the shutdown could mean delayed paychecks for 1.3 million active-duty troops, including more than 171,000 stationed overseas.
Troops would be required to report for duty in the event of a shutdown, but would not receive paychecks until after a new budget deal is reached.
“Hundreds of thousands of their civilian colleagues in the Department of Defense would also be furloughed, affecting the ways in which the department manages its affairs globally, including the vital task of recruiting new members of the military,” the White House statement said. “All of this would prove disruptive to our national security.”
Last week, Rep. Jen Kiggans, R-Va., and GOP Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, offered separate but similar legislation to provide paychecks to military members — including the Coast Guard — in the event of a budget lapse. Congress approved similar legislation in September 2013, just ahead of the last government shutdown affecting most federal departments.
But chamber leaders thus far have not advanced that legislation, instead hoping for a breakthrough on the budget impasse in the coming days to avoid the military pay disruption entirely.
White House officials have blamed the looming shutdown threat on House conservatives backing out on plans negotiated earlier this summer for limited growth in defense and non-defense spending over the next two years. Republican lawmakers have pushed for full-year spending bills rather than short-term extensions.
Defense Department workers are receiving instructions this week from agency heads about what operations and services could be impacted if a shutdown begins on Oct. 1.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.