Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Federal Shutdown Could Halt Paychecks for 129,400 Active-Duty Military Members in Virginia

Airmen participate in an airfield establishment exercise at Hurlburt Field, Fla., Sept. 21, 2023. Members of the 21st Special Tactics Squadron jumped from an MC-130J during the 94th Joint Civilian Orientation Conference. (U.S. Department of Defense photo)

WASHINGTON — The White House is warning that a partial government shutdown would mean 1.3 million active-duty armed services members must keep working without receiving paychecks and hundreds of thousands of Pentagon employees would face furloughs.

According to September 2022 figures, numerous states are home to large numbers of troops who would work without pay until after the shutdown, including Virginia with 129,400; North Carolina with 95,900; Florida with 66,900; Georgia with 63,800; and Washington with 62,100.

“Nobody joins the military to get rich. You join because you love your country. You want to serve, and you’re willing to do it at some risk to yourself. But you have every expectation that the government is going to be able to pay a decent wage and take care of your family,” John Kirby, spokesperson for the Biden administration’s National Security Council, said on a call with reporters Tuesday.

“When (service members) don’t get their paychecks, electrical bills, water bills, rent, mortgage, grocery bills, all that stacks up to the great detriment of these young men and women,” he continued. “So in total, more than 1.3 million could actually face real financial hardship as they continue to show up to defend the rest of us.”

Service members would be paid retroactively upon the end of a shutdown, which could last hours, days or weeks.

Virginia Rep. Jen Kiggans, R-Virginia Beach, last week introduced legislation that would ensure pay from service members, including members of the Coast Guard, is uninterrupted.  However, neither chamber has taken action on the bill yet.

Government shutdown Saturday

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has been unable to unify his party members on full-year government spending bills or even a short-term stopgap measure that would avoid a shutdown, which would occur Saturday night without action by Congress.

Far-right members of the conference want to further cut nondefense spending beyond an agreement that McCarthy reached with President Joe Biden, who signed it into law. Some also want to sever any Ukraine funding from a government funding deal.

The fiscal year ends Saturday, and McCarthy has only a slim margin of votes he can afford to lose. Additionally, any spending bills or short-term deals to avoid a funding lapse would need to be bipartisan enough to appeal to the Democrat-led Senate.

If no deal is reached before the year’s fiscal deadline, other parts under the Defense Department’s massive scope will be affected, the administration also warned.

Kirby said the Pentagon’s military recruitment programs as well as procurement and management of existing defense contracts will be disrupted if the department’s civilian employees are furloughed.

“All of this would prove disruptive to our national security and our efforts to address the critical needs of the American people. And again, the reason is these extreme House Republicans are basically turning their backs on a bipartisan budget deal that they worked out with the president, that two-thirds of them voted for just a few months ago,” he said.

The department’s civilian workforce totals 804,422, and roughly 430,000 could face furloughs, according to the Pentagon on Tuesday.

McCarthy’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the possibility of troops working without pay or Pentagon furloughs.

Mercury Editor Sarah Vogelsong contributed to this story.

Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: info@virginiamercury.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

Related Articles