On December 22nd, the United States entered a partial government shutdown due to a failure to get legislation signed that appropriated funds for 2019. All politics firmly set aside for the sake of this discussion, the fact is that about 400,000 of the 2 million civilian federal employees are expected to be furloughed.
Troops in four of the five branches of the Armed Forces will not be affected. Life, for the most part, will continue as it has, with only minor hiccups felt by a few civilian employees. The major exception to this is the roughly 42,000 Coast Guardsmen who currently face uncertainty.
To put it simply, the Coast Guard is a part of the United States Armed Forces, but isn't a part of the Department of Defense. They're a part of the Department of Homeland Security.
The Department of Defense has many safeguards in place to ensure that troops are taken care of in case of government shutdowns. The budget for Fiscal Year 2019 was determined by the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for FY19 back in August, and it covers DoD expenses for the year until October, 2019.
Unless this shutdown is an extreme case and lasts until October, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Marines don't need to worry. The longest shutdown on record ran for 22 days in 1995, so it's pretty unlikely.
But even if there were a shutdown around the time an NDAA needed to be completed (as was the case in 2013), paying the Armed Forces is a bipartisan issue and is protected by the Pay Our Military Act of 2013. This solidified the troops, including the Coast Guard, as essential personnel to receive pay and tapped directly into the treasury to ensure that the troops were taken care of in 2013. Unfortunately, that bill only covered Fiscal Year 2014.
Today, the Coast Guardsmen are being left in the dust.
Since Coast Guardsmen are contractually obligated or possibly deployed at this moment, it's not like they can just work Uber or Lyft until this blows over.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. Daniel Lavinder)
Coast Guardsmen are essential employees that are required to work without pay until the government reopens. Thankfully, they did receive pay on December 31st and the $150 million required to properly pay them was given, so the effects aren't being felt quite yet.
If the shutdown lasts 25 days — which would be a new record by 3 days — we'll be at January 15th. Then, Coast Guardsmen will start feeling the effects of being an entire paycheck behind. The official statement of the Coast Guard says that personnel should, essentially, maintain a stiff upper lip, but contact financial institutions, banks, and creditors in case of the worst. If the shutdown ends or a stop-gap is put in place by January 15th, things will be alright again.
There is one thing that can be done, shy of including the Coast Guard in the NDAA for FY2020, and that's through the recently proposed "Pay the Coast Guard" Act.
Contact your legislator and tell them that our Coast Guardsmen deserve to be paid.
We, as troops and veterans, may make fun of our little sibling branch for being puddle pirates, but we always look to protect our own. Right now, our brothers- and sisters-in-arms need our help.
You can keep that promise with one simple email or phone call.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Jennifer Nease.)
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