Government Shutdown: How it Punishes our Fighting Men and Women

Defensive positions at the US Consulate Herat

Although our fighting troops will continue to get paid — at least for the time being — the government shutdown must weigh heavily on their minds as they worry about the effects it is having on their families back home and even as to their own future pay, allowances and benefits.

All “stateside” commissaries (except for two in remote areas of California and one in Alaska), have been closed. Commissaries are essential to our troops and their families as they help them stretch their food budget.

Commenting on the importance of the commissaries and the impact their closure is having on our troops, the Defense Commissary Agency notes that “Commissary patrons across the United States reacted to the announced store closures in the same manner as customers descend on a grocery store to prepare for a hurricane,” points out that commissary sales Oct. 1, the day before commissaries were closed, totaled $30.6 million and adds, “Those numbers underscore the impact of the closure on commissary patrons, who demonstrated with their transactions on Oct. 1 that they depend on their commissary benefit.”

Task Force Guam serving Operation Enduring Freedom

U.S. Army Sgt. Damian Raigalipiy stands guard atop a 40-foot tall perimeter wall at Qala-I-Jangi in northern Afghanistan’s Balkh province, Sept. 29, 2013. Qala-I-Jangi was known as the “House of War” during a 2001 prisoner uprising. Raigaliply is assigned to Company A, 1st Battalion, 294th Infantry Regiment, Guam Army National Guard.

Adding insult to injury, many of the 11,000 commissary employees who have been furloughed, are military family members and retirees.

While schools and Child Development Centers on military installations are open, “childcare for school-age children before school and after might not be available if located away from development centers. Many young military families who rely on Women, Infant and Children (WIC) nutritional assistance could see that program running out of money if the shutdown drags on,” says the Stars and Stripes.

Joyce Wessel Raezer, executive director of the National Military Family Association, says, “So not only are we making families pay more at the grocery store, our young, vulnerable families with babies and little kids are going to lose the extra nutritional support.”

Mountain Wolf II

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Adam Cook and his military dog, Falco, take a break during a patrol in Mohammad Abad village in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, July 23, 2013. Cook, a dog handler, and Falco are assigned to the 2nd Law Enforcement Battalion.

The Stars and Stripes adds:

Furloughs will impact access to care in base hospitals and clinics but the Defense Health Agency can’t predict how yet. DHA does vow that the shutdown will not impact inpatient care, acute care or emergency care on base, nor will it affect access to private sector care under TRICARE options.

Also, while “activated Guard and Reserve personnel will be paid, reserve component drills are being cancelled so drill pay will stop. Death gratuities to survivors of members killed on active duty will be delayed. Education centers on bases are closed and tuition assistance is unavailable.”

And:

Promotion boards are suspended. Training and travel are disrupted unless connected to the war in Afghanistan, readiness for future deployments or other “excepted activities” including emergency services, police, firefighters and emergency medical personnel.

Task Force Guam serving Operation Enduring Freedom

U.S. Army Spc. Mimi Arceo guides her vehicle through a busy street and past an Afghan cart vendor in Kabul, Afghanistan, Oct. 1, 2013. Arceo is a tactical driver for Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 294th Infantry Regiment, Guam Army National Guard.

Though Congress passed the “Pay Our Military Act” — and the President signed it into law — to ensure troops and excepted civilians will keep getting paychecks, “some three days later, the Pentagon has yet to tell employees whether they’ll be able to collect their Oct. 15 pay.”

The Stars and Stripes:

On Thursday afternoon, defense officials were still busy preparing guidance on implementation of the hastily passed law. The guidance could also clarify other questions, such as whether troops will continue to receive Imminent Danger Pay during the shutdown, and whether the Pentagon can expand the number of civilians able to work.

Also, according to the Stripes:

As of Thursday, teachers with the Defense Department of Defense Education Activity, who continue to work during the government shutdown, seemed unsure whether they would be paid on time. In a Thursday email to Stars and Stripes, a DODEA teacher said supervisors have told her and her colleagues “that our pay will be delayed. We have been given no further information. I think it is important that our community understands that currently, teachers are still teaching their children with no idea when a paycheck will come.”

Even one of the very few things our troops in Afghanistan and elsewhere truly enjoy — one of the few things that reminds them of home — during their hours away from patrol and battle, has now been taken away as the American Forces Network, “reduced to just a news channel this week by the government shutdown, says it has no plans to screen football, baseball or other sports until things get back to normal.”

The Stripes:

Lt. Uriel Macias, a Navy reservist assigned to a stability operations team in Kabul, said while he is not an avid sports fan, he has noticed an impact on others who work in his office.

“They have to use the online play-by-play sites, and sit there and refresh it over and over again,” he said. “Sports are an escape for a lot of people here, so it can be a little frustrating for them.”

The Stripes article concludes:

Back at Yokota, [housing renovation project manager T.] Bourland said Americans should punish the people responsible for cutting AFN sports by voting out every politician currently serving in national office.

“Whoever is up for election — don’t vote for them,” he said.

Amen!

This is no way to treat our troops.

Republicans in Congress, have the decency to end this unnecessary and totally politically motivated, partisan government shutdown.

Stop you theatrics, optics and photo-ops with our troops and our veterans. Don’t hold them hostage to your ideology, nor use them as pawns in your political battles.

Pass a clean, unencumbered Continuing Resolution!

Lead image:

U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Sean Allison, left, and U.S. Army Ryan Skeffington provide security on the roof of the U.S. Consulate in Herat city in Afghanistan’s Herat province, Sept. 19, 2013. Allison and Skeffington are assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division’s Company D, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team.

All photos and captions: DOD

Author: DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

6 Comments

  1. I heard that it is also affecting military families that were in the middle of changing housing locations.

  2. Thanks Jim.

    This what I can dig up on PCS (Permanent change of station) moves

    The Air Force has canceled all new temporary duty travel, except for travel in direct support of the war in Afghanistan and other travel directly related to the safety of life and protection of property, as well as foreign relations. Space Command said permanent change-of-station activities already underway will continue, but new PCS moves will not be started during the shutdown unless they are also in support of an excepted activity.

    There are numerous other impacts. This one on education and training::

    The Air Force’s training and education programs took some of the most evident hits in the first week of the government shutdown.

    The Air Force Academy immediately suspended 20 percent of its nearly 300 courses and grounded all flying operations at the 306th Flying Training Group after it furloughed more than 1,000 employees, more than two-thirds of its staff.

    Air University was likewise forced to delay the start of its next Senior Noncomissioned Officer Academy class from Oct. 7 to Oct. 21 because most temporary duty travel has been suspended.

    Twenty-six training or test flying units stood down due to the shutdown, as did nine other combat-coded flying units. And tuition assistance for classes starting on or after Oct. 1 was suspended until further notice

  3. Yep, it’s too bad. The commissaries are an important benefit to military families, important enough I’m kind of surprised they closed them. Most military members consider the commissary and BX benefits an extension of their pay.

  4. Having lived on base I don’t need to tell you how important the BX is. I guess they are closed because the workers are contracted from the economy and we can’t pay contractors now.
    Unless the families can speak the language of their host nation, shopping may be a tad difficult. As for the commissary….those meals and coffees are going to be missed.

  5. Hi Sheknows:

    I believe Bx’s are open and, fortunately, commissaries overseas are still open.

  6. Stateside commissaries closed due to the government shutdown will resume normal operations Oct. 7, the Defense Commissary Agency announced on their website today.

    Stores normally closed on Mondays will reopen for business on their next scheduled operating day.

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