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Official: Troops' pay would be withheld until shutdown is resolved

UPDATED: April 6, 2011 at 4:25 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Troops will remain on duty even if politicians can’t solve a budget impasse that threatens to shutter the U.S. government after April 8, a senior Obama administration official said Wednesday.

But pay for any work done after the shutdown would have to wait until federal operations resumed, said the official, who is familiar with the government’s contingency planning but not authorized to speak publicly.

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“The military would be paid through the 8th” — or half a paycheck, the official said. “Beyond that period of time they would not be paid. They would continue to earn their money, and when we have money again, they would be paid at that time.”

Likewise, Department of Defense civilian workers and contractors who, like servicemembers, are deemed necessary for “the safety of life and protection of property,” would continue to work for deferred pay.

Most other civilians would be furloughed, except for those whose offices are funded by fees or other non-appropriated funds.

Veterans services would continue, the administration official said. The Department of Veterans Affairs is funded through multiyear appropriations and reportedly would not be affected by a shutdown.

Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn’s office was preparing a document giving guidance to commanders of various components with the department on how to carry out a shutdown, said Pentagon spokesman Col. David Lapan.

“We’re pushing to get something today,” he said.

Mid-afternoon on Wednesday, employees in the Pentagon’s Defense Media Activity division were told in a memo that if a budget accord is not reached by Friday night and a shutdown is ordered, they should report to work Monday morning.

At that time, the memo said, they would learn who would continue to work during the shutdown and who would be furloughed.

Although no count has been taken to see how many government workers would be furloughed if a shutdown occurs, the administration official said it would likely be similar to the number of employees — 800,000 — temporarily off work during a government shutdown in 1995.

With the budget debate at an apparent impasse, politicians Wednesday were seeking a legislative solution for the issue of military pay. Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican, introduced a bill in the House of Representatives last week that would authorize funds to pay troops and Department of Defense civilian employees. On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of legislators introduced the measure in the Senate.

One part of government that would go on hiatus is the Internal Revenue Service, which would not conduct audits or process paper forms,  although electronic filing could continue, the official said. The National Park Service, Small Business Administration and Federal Housing Administration would be among other agencies to stop functioning.

If military pay is cut off, military members who are in a bind likely will be able to access offices on their base where they can apply for quick, interest-free loans.

Representatives for the Air Force Aid Society and the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society said their services would be available during a shutdown. A spokesman for the Army Emergency Relief has not responded to a request for comment.

Stars and Stripes reporter Mark Patton contributed to this report.

carrollc@stripes.osd.mil

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