As readers of Big Government know, an impasse over a few billion dollars in proposed spending cuts threatens to shutdown the federal government. (And, by a few billion dollars I mean, rounding error.) As regular readers should also know, I’ve come to embrace a shutdown, rather than fear it.
As this recent Congressional Research Service report explains, if the government were to shutdown, an OMB Directive issued in the 1980s (along with a handful of legal opinions) guide what parts of government continue to function and what parts must close down. Short story, all of the important functions of government, i.e national security, the military, air traffic control, border security, Social Security payments, etc., will continue to function. The parts that have to shut down…well, lets just say they are candidates for permanent cuts. I mean, if the country functions for several weeks without a few hundred thousand ‘non-essential’ employees, couldn’t we probably function without them forever? I’m not saying every one of these jobs should necessarily be eliminated…but it isn’t a good place to start?
Sensing the potential PR nightmare from this, it seems the Obama Administration may have decided to raise the stakes on a shutdown. According to draft guidance from the Pentagon, the Obama Administration will require military personnel to report to work…but, will hold their paychecks until the impasse is resolved. As Government Executive explained in a March 15th article:
Military personnel and exempt Defense Department civilian employees are required to continue working without pay during a government shutdown, according to guidance from the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
In a memo prepared earlier this month, Defense officials noted that service members and some civilian workers, including those involved in national security and the protection of life and property, still must report for duty but will not be paid until Congress appropriates funds to reimburse them for that period of service. All other employees will be furloughed, the memo stated.
Military personnel are not subject to furlough.
This is new.
During the last government shutdown, in 1995, troops continued to receive their paychecks. According to Federal Times:
When the government was shut down in 1995, military personnel continued to report to work and were paid, but the planning guidance sent to the services and defense agencies says a shutdown this time will be different.
“All military personnel will continue in normal duty status regardless of their affiliation with exempt or non-exempt activities,” says the draft planning guidance that was prepared for the services and defense agencies. “Military personnel will serve without pay until such time as Congress makes appropriated funds available to compensate them for this period of service.”
During the 1995 shutdown, the Clinton Administration followed the OMB guidance issued during the Reagan Administration. The Obama Administration, it seems, is tacking a different direction.
Let me be clear, the guidelines proposing to hold military paychecks are, according to the news reports, draft guidelines. It is possible the Obama Administration has abandoned these punitive guidelines. And, even if they implemented these guidelines, military personnel would most likely eventually receive their pay, once a budget agreement is reached. But, why even change the policy and subject our military to partisan political battles. The policy is certainly a change, but it doesn’t provide much hope.
Hopefully, they will clear this up quickly.