Senate Bill Poised to Fund the Coast Guard, but NOAA Corps Still on the Ropes
A Coast Guard Member takes part in Tradewinds 2018, a multinational Caribbean exercise sponsored by U.S. Southern Command. (Photo by MC1 Melissa K. Russell/Navy)
A South Dakota senator has introduced legislation that will pay Coast Guard members despite the ongoing partial government shutdown.
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., put forward the Pay Our Coast Guard Act on Jan. 3, the first day of the new congressional session, with bipartisan backing from Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.).
Military and veteran service organizations, including MOAA, signed onto a letter written by the Sea Service Family Association to Thune in December requesting that he introduce the legislation, which is similar to a bill Thune sponsored during the 2015 shutdown.
While the bill would remove financial headaches from tens of thousands of servicemembers and their families, it would not address members of the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps, whose hundreds of members work under the umbrella of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, part of the unfunded Department of Commerce.
NOAA Corps members received their Dec. 31 paychecks under a one-time fix that also covered Coast Guard members. Mid-January paychecks for both services remain in doubt.
“The Motto of the United States Coast Guard is 'Semper Paratus,' which means 'Always Ready,'” said Col. Mike Barron, USA (Ret), MOAA's Director of Government Relations. “The men and women of the Coast Guard continue to live up to this motto daily even though the service has yet to be funded for FY2019, and they do not know if they will continue to receive a paycheck going forward. We greatly appreciate the initiative by Sen. John Thune, which has bipartisan support.”
Soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines will continue to receive their pay during the shutdown, as will retirees from all uniformed branches. Coast Guard members operate under the Department of Homeland Security, which has not been funded. MOAA members (and others) can click here to send a message to lawmakers that the missions of the Coast Guard and NOAA Corps deserve full funding, and that their members deserve pay equity with others in uniform.
“We need our members to take action now to urge their representatives in Congress to support this important legislation,” Barron said. “The men and women of the Coast Guard and their families deserve nothing less than our full support.”