DOD prepares personnel for government shutdown

Operations deemed essential, including those abroad, to be excepted from shutdown

The Defense Department today issued official guidance for operations in the event of a government shutdown, as Capitol Hill continues to fail to pass budgetary legislation.

In a memo outlining DOD plans for dealing with the threatened government shutdown, Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn ordered that operations and activities essential to safety and protection of human life and national security be excepted from shutdown, including operations abroad.

"The DOD will continue to conduct activities in support of our national security, including operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Japan; Libya-related support operations; and other operations and activities essential to the security of our nation.  The department must also continue to provide for the safety of human life and protection of property," Lynn said in the memo.

Lynn also designated as "excepted" services critical for military families to function, including:

  • Inpatient and essential outpatient care in DOD medical treatment facilities.
  • Emergency dental care. 
  • Non-appropriated funds activities such as mess halls and child care activities.
  • Certain legal activities to support ongoing litigation and legal assistance for deployed DOD personnel.
  • Contracting and logistics operations that are in support of excepted activities.
  • Certain education and training activities to include the DOD education activity schools.
  • Financial management activities necessary to ensure the control and accountability of funds. 

More information will still be forthcoming regarding the shutdown of non-excepted functions, Lynn said.

"In the absence of appropriations, non-excepted activities that have not already been fully funded will need to be shut down in an orderly fashion," Lynn said. "However, [Defense Secretary Robert Gates] and I understand that the military departments and defense agencies and individual commanders must tailor this guidance to many different situations around the world. Therefore, should there be a government shutdown, DOD personnel will be informed through their chain of command about how a shutdown may affect them personally."

It appears some confusion might still remain as orders are passed down through chains of command and excepted/non-excepted statuses are determined.

In language obtained by Defense Systems from an internal Air Force e-mail detailing shutdown plans, a senior official asked staff leadership to review organizational civilian rosters to ensure that excepted and non-excepted determinations are made appropriately.

Military personnel will not face furloughs, according to the DOD guidance. Contractors are expected to continue working on contracts funded prior to the shutdown through funds already appropriated.

But many DOD employees could be forced to work without on-time pay if the government does shut down, according to senior DOD leadership.

"If the government shuts down due to the absence of funding, the DOD will have no funds to pay military members or civilian employees for the days during which the government is shut down," Lynn said in the guidance. "However, both military and civilian personnel will receive pay for the period worked prior to the shutdown. Military personnel, and civilians occupying excepted status positions and required to work, are entitled to be paid for work performed during the shutdown, and will be paid retroactively once the department receives additional funding. Congress would have to provide authority in order for the department to retroactively pay non-excepted employees for the furloughed period."

Further details regarding reserve and civilian personnel and payment can be found in the DOD release.



About the Author

Amber Corrin is a staff writer covering military networks for Defense Systems.

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