Here's what we know about how the shutdown is affecting the military, DoD civilians and veterans
By STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS Published: January 21, 2018
Editor's note: President Donald Trump signed a bill reopening the government late Monday, ending a 69-hour display of partisan dysfunction after Democrats reluctantly voted to temporarily pay for resumed operations. They relented in return for Republican assurances that the Senate will soon take up the plight of young immigrant "dreamers" and other contentious issues. Find more info here.
A U.S. government shutdown amid a congressional dispute over spending and immigration has forced scores of federal agencies and outposts to close their doors, and the furloughing of nearly 1 million federal employees has begun.
But the government hasn't completely shut down. As in shutdowns past, federal services were carved into two categories — essential and non-essential — with the former set to carry on as normal.
Here's a look at what we know now:
What about the military?
A federal statute, the Antideficiency Act, generally bars agencies from spending money that Congress and the president have not appropriated.
But the law has big exceptions, notably for military and intelligence operations, national security, and emergencies involving "the safety of human life or the protection of property." President Donald Trump and the Defense Department would have broad authority to keep running whatever military operations they deemed necessary.
All active-duty military personnel would keep working in the event of a shutdown. Troops cannot be paid for duty performed after the shutdown began Saturday, but their paychecks will be delayed only if the government closure lasts beyond Feb. 1. That's because pay is issued only twice a month, on the first and the 15th.
The U.S. military will continue to fight wars and conduct missions around the world, including in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in a memo released by the Pentagon on Saturday that the U.S. military will continue to carry out operations across the world, but the shutdown already was prompting the cancellation or delay of training for reserve units and having other effects. Mattis pledged to do his best to mitigate disruptions and financial impacts on military families.
"We will continue to execute daily operations around the world – ships and submarines will remain at sea, our aircraft will continue to fly and our warfighters will continue to pursue terrorists throughout the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia," Mattis wrote.
Weapons and equipment maintenance will shut down, military intelligence operations would stop and training for most of the reserve force would be put on hold, he said. And any National Guard forces heading out to do weekend training duty around the country will arrive at armories and be told to go home.
The last time the government shut down, in 2013, the military remained on the job and legislation to pay service members during the shutdown was signed by President Barack Obama. The same legislation, called the Pay Our Military Act, was used to bring back nearly 350,000 of the 800,000 civilian personnel who had been furloughed by the Defense Department. Because it was unable to pay death benefits to the families of soldiers killed in action, the Pentagon also contracted with a charity that footed those costs until the government could reimburse it.
Ultimately, it's up to Trump to decide who stays on the job and who goes during a shutdown, said Stan Collender, an expert on the federal budget at Qorvis MSLGroup.
According to a 2015 shutdown contingency plan from the Defense Department, the military's war operations in Afghanistan and against the Islamic State and al-Qaida would continue, "including preparation of forces for deployment into those conflicts."
Contractors whose work is fully funded will stay on the job. Although the Defense Department will be barred from executing new contracts, it could keep doing so "where delay in contracting would create an imminent risk to the safety of human life or the protection of property, including endangering national security."
The 2015 contingency plan called for 78 percent of the Pentagon's civilian workforce to be furloughed, or nearly 563,000 employees. Civilians who directly support the military would not be furloughed under the plan.
What about DoD civilians?
Defense Department civilians overseas began receiving furlough notices Monday morning as the federal government shutdown began impacting bases around the world. The furloughs — expected to include more than 50 percent of DoD’s roughly 742,000 civilian personnel — mean that some base services and activities will be curtailed or cancelled until Congress and the White House can come to an agreement on federal spending. Find more info on what's curtailed or canceled here.
What family services are operational?
The DoD issued an advisory titled Continuing Family Support in the Event of a Government Shutdown with some broad information on what services will be available.
American Forces Network, which provides entertainment and command information to U.S. servicemembers worldwide through its television and radio services, went dark at one point during the weekend. On Sunday, one AFN sports channel and a news channel began re-airing sporadically overseas, meaning that servicemembers would be able to watch the NFC and AFC championship games. Find more info here.
All Department of Defense Education Activity-Europe high school sports are cancelled, including practices, until the shutdown is over, DODEA-Europe athletic director Kathlene Clemmons said in a statement Monday. The suspension of activities comes as European championship events are set to begin Feb. 3. DODEA-Pacific Practices and regular-season basketball games and wrestling matches have also been placed on hold due to the government shutdown.
For the latest on what services are available, go here.
What is the impact on veterans?
The Department of Veterans Affairs is not affected as much as other federal agencies because it receives one-year advance appropriations from Congress. The decision to fund the VA in advance was made in 2009 at the urging of veterans organizations that wanted to ensure VA health care was protected from future shutdowns.
The VA health care system, including more than 160 hospitals and hundreds of community-based outpatient clinics, remains fully operational. Veterans eligible for VA pay will still receive their checks, and veterans’ cemeteries will continue burial services.
Most of the VA’s budget, 86 percent, is funded in advance. This means most employees would continue to work if the Senate doesn’t come to an agreement Friday, but some workers could be subject to furlough.
The VA made a contingency plan in anticipation of an August shutdown. The plan, posted on the agency’s website, states more than 336,000 of approximately 377,000 total employees would continue to work with pay.
About 16,000, most of whom work in VA benefits, would be furloughed, and others would work without pay. All but eight of the 80 people who work in VA Secretary David Shulkin’s office would be furloughed.
Because of the furloughs, recruiting, hiring and training of new employees would be halted, and responses to congressional and Freedom of Information Act requests would cease. The appeals process for veterans’ benefits claims would be suspended during a shutdown, as would military transition programs and education benefits assistance programs.
Who works and who doesn't?
In the case of a shutdown, fewer than half of the 2 million civilian federal workers subject to it will be forced off the job if the Trump administration follows the rules followed by previous Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. That's not counting about 500,000 Postal Service employees or 1.3 million uniformed military personnel who would be exempt.
The rules for who works and who doesn't date back to the early 1980s and haven't been significantly modified since. The Trump administration is relying mostly on guidance left over from Obama.
Under a precedent-setting memorandum by Reagan budget chief David Stockman, federal workers are exempted from furloughs if their jobs are national security-related or if they perform essential activities that "protect life and property."
The air traffic control system, food inspection, Medicare, veterans' health care and many other essential government programs would run as usual. The Social Security Administration would not only send out benefits but would continue to take applications — though replacements for lost Social Security cards would have to wait. The Postal Service, which is self-funded, would keep delivering the mail. The Federal Emergency Management Agency could continue to respond to last year's spate of disaster.
The Washington Monument would be closed, as would museums along the National Mall. In the past, national parks have been closed to visitors and campers, but the Interior Department says it is trying to make parks as accessible as possible despite bare bones staffing level, and is "prioritizing access to the most accessible and most iconic areas of parks and public lands."
Interior department spokeswoman Heather Swift said the American public — especially veterans who come to the nation's capital — should find war memorials and open-air parks available to visitors.
Do federal workers get paid?
While they can be kept on the job, federal workers can't get paid for days worked during a lapse in funding. In the past, however, they have been repaid retroactively even if they were ordered to stay home.
Rush hour in downtown Washington, meanwhile, becomes a breeze. Tens of thousands of federal workers are off the roads.
How often did this happen in the past?
Way back in the day, shutdowns usually weren't that big a deal. They happened every year when Jimmy Carter was president, averaging 11 days each. During Reagan's two terms, there were six shutdowns, typically just one or two days apiece. Deals got cut. Everybody moved on.
The last one was a 16-day partial shuttering of the government in 2013, which came as tea party conservatives, cheered on by outside groups like Heritage Action, demanded that language to block implementation of Obama's health care law be added to a must-do funding bill.
What were the political repercussions?
In a 1995-96 political battle, Clinton bested Newt Gingrich and his band of budget-slashing conservatives, who were determined to use a shutdown to force Clinton to sign onto a balanced budget agreement. Republicans were saddled with the blame, but most Americans suffered relatively minor inconveniences like closed parks and delays in processing passport applications. The fight bolstered Clinton's popularity and he sailed to re-election that November.
In 2013, the tea party Republicans forced the shutdown over the better judgment of GOP leaders like then-Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. Republicans tried to fund the government piecemeal — for example, by forcing through legislation to ensure military service members got paid. But a broader effort faltered, and Republicans eventually backed down and supported a round of budget talks led by Paul Ryan, R-Wis., then chairman of the House Budget Committee.
How many workers were affected in past shutdowns?
In 1995, 571,000 Defense Department civilian employees, some 69 percent, remained at their post, while 258,000 other Pentagon workers were furloughed. Eighty-five percent of Veterans Administration employees went to work, as did 70 percent of Transportation Department workers. The latest estimates from the Justice Department are that 83 percent of its employees, some 95,000 people, would be deemed essential and stay on the job.
The 2013 shutdown resulted in the furlough of 850,000 employees, which cost the government 6.6 million days of work and more than $2.5 billion in lost productivity and pay and benefits for employees.
This story includes information from Stars and Stripes stories, the Associated Press and the Washington Post.