Signals from the White House have been firming up this week on whether paychecks will continue for active duty military during a government shutdown. Unfortunately, as of today (Wednesday, 6 April), the trend is in a negative direction. The mainstream media are reporting that there’s a good chance military pay will be suspended after 8 April. In practical terms, this means there will be a 15 April paycheck containing pay through the 8th (half the normal semi-monthly amount), and nothing after that until the shutdown is over.
Obviously, there are questions about why the Obama administration is emitting signals like this. They are politically stupid; no significant constituency thinks the US budget battle has to be fought across the monthly bills of our fighting men and women.
The possibility that the military will be required to continue on duty without pay also highlights one of the important differences between the military and the rest of the federal government. The government can’t require its civilian work force to operate without pay. Its only options, with the civilian work force, are furloughing employees and shutting down services. The civilian work force is protected by union agreements and labor laws in this regard. The troops are not.
We can hope that Democrats in Congress will help Obama think better of waging the fight in this manner. Things may well look different by Friday. But if you want to help things look different, contact your senators and US representative about two bills that were introduced in the last week to ensure that the active duty military keeps getting paid.
Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) and Jack Kingston (R-GA) sponsored H.R. 1297, the House version of the Ensuring Pay for Our Military Act. The status of the bill at the moment is unclear, but this report indicates it was still in committee as of Tuesday, 5 April.
Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Bob Casey Jr. (D-PA) introduced the Senate version of the Ensuring Pay for Our Military Act, S. 724, today. It’s too early for information on its status.
If this issue is not resolved by Friday, and you want to help the families of active duty military members (many of whom are young, with kids, and live paycheck to paycheck), the service aid/relief societies are a good place to start. They specialize in providing food, household items, short-term loans, and other assistance to military families in distress. If there is an extended federal government shutdown (which we can reasonably hope will not be the case), the relief societies will quickly be stretched to the max. They will appreciate donations. Here are their websites:
We don’t have to let the troops down. I know Americans will step up to the plate on this one.