Guard, Reserve Training Cancelled for Shutdown, Pay Issue Still Unresolved

Training for more than 110,000 Guard and Reserve personnel was cancelled as the impacts of the government shutdown on the military began piling up Sunday in the second day of the standoff in Congress over the budget.

In a phone call, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis gave President Donald Trump “an update on about 90,000 National Guardsmen and 20,000 Army Reservists who have had their training cancelled because of the government shutdown,” White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said late Saturday.

Mulvaney, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, said the Guard and Reserve personnel would “have to pick up their own pay and travel costs.”

However, the likelihood was that they would be reimbursed once Congress arrives at a budget deal or passes another continuing resolution to keep the government functioning at 2017 spending levels.

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In past government shutdowns, Congress has moved to continue paying the military, where annual salaries begin at less than $30,000, for the duration of the impasse.

As the midnight Friday deadline approached for the shutdown, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, offered a resolution to announce Congress’ intent to continue paying the troops. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, objected and the resolution was shelved.

Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Martha McSally, R-Arizona, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, have offered separate bills to continue paying the troops but there has been no action as yet on either measure.

The military is paid twice a month. The last paychecks, including a 2.4 percent raise authorized by Trump in an executive order last month, went out on Jan. 15. The next paychecks are due Feb. 1.

By law, pay for the military and federal workers comes to a halt in a shutdown, but retirees and annuitants will continue to receive checks, according to the Defense Finance and Accounting Agency.

Although Guard and Reserve weekend training was cancelled, other training that was already underway continued. At the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, the pilot and co-pilot of an AH-64 Apache helicopter gunship were killed in a training accident Saturday. Army officials said the helicopter was attached to the 4th Infantry Division based in Fort Carson, Colorado.

In a memo to all personnel as the shutdown deadline neared, Mattis said, “We in the Department of Defense will continue carrying out our fundamental responsibility to defend our nation and the American people,” he said.

“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,” the secretary said.

“While training for reservists must be curtailed, active forces will stay at their posts adapting their training to achieve the least negative impact on our readiness to fight,” he said.

“I recognize the consequences of a government shutdown,” Mattis said but his overall message was, “Steady as she goes -- hold the line. I know our nation can count on you.”

Col. John Thomas, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command responsible for the war zones of the Mideast, said operations would continue during the shutdown. CentCom “remains mostly unaffected because of our warfighting mission," Thomas told Stars & Stripes.

In a speech to unveil the National Defense Strategy Friday, Mattis said that most basic maintenance and contracting would stop during a shutdown, and some intelligence operations also would be suspended. He said he expected about half of Pentagon’s civilian workforce of more than 740,000 would be furloughed.

The impacts on the military of the shutdown began building up during the weekend and will only escalate if it continues during the coming week.

The Air Force Academy cancelled all intercollegiate athletic activities while the Naval Academy and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point continued playing for the time being.

"Due to the government shutdown, all Air Force Academy home and away intercollegiate athletic events have been canceled until further notice," the Academy said in a Saturday statement.

"In the event a solution is reached, the Academy will work to reschedule as many missed events as possible," the school said.

In separate memos, Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, and Dana White, chief spokesperson for the Pentagon, outlined the actual and potential impacts for the military of a shutdown.

In her memo, White said “all Departmental community and public outreach activities will cease” – including tours of the Pentagon, and demonstrations by the Navy’s Blue Angels and Air Force Thunderbirds.

The outreach activities included “flyovers, aerial demonstrations, jump team demonstrations” and performances by military bands.

In addition, “all temporary duty travel in support of outreach activities will be cancelled and travelers will return to home station,” White’s memo said.

In his contingency plan and guidance memo for the shutdown, Shanahan said recruitment activities would continue but separations could be a problem.

“Accession and training moves associated with recruitment and initial level training will continue, along with subsequent movement to first station when required,” Shanahan said.

However, “Movement to comply with separation instructions will continue only if the funds were obligated prior to” the shutdown, the memo said.

Temporary Duty (TDY) travel and conference participation scheduled to begin after the shutdown should be cancelled, “unless it involves direct support of military activities in Afghanistan, against Al Qaeda and to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and other terrorist groups,” Shanahan said.

Contractors performing under a fully-funded contract awarded prior to the shutdown “may continue to provide contract services,” Shanahan said, but new contracts, including extensions and renewals, “may not be executed.”

The prospects for a quick solution to the shutdown were uncertain amid the blame-game rhetoric of the weekend.

Republicans were calling it the “Schumer shutdown,” a reference to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, while Democrats called it the “Trump shutdown.”

However, the outlines of a potential deal were emerging that would give $20 billion to the border wall Trump campaigned on in return for a commitment from Republicans to hold votes on an immigration deal that would include the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for up to 800,000 individuals brought to the U.S. as minors.

In a series of Sunday morning tweets, Trump urged Republicans to stand firm: “Great to see how hard Republicans are fighting for our Military and Safety at the Border. The Dems just want illegal immigrants to pour into our nation unchecked.”

Currently, 60 votes would be needed in the Senate, where Republicans have a 51-49 edge, to pass a deal ending the shutdown. Trump called on Senate Majority Leader McConnell to exercise the “nuclear option” requiring a simple majority of 51 votes.

However, McConnell’s spokesman, Don Stewart, said, “The Senate Republican Conference opposes changing the threshold for cloture votes on legislation,” The Washington Post reported.

— Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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