Current Budget Status: A continuing resolution will keep the government open until Feb. 8. MOAA will continue to keep our members posted as federal budget issues evolve.
As the partial-government shutdown headed into its third day, defense leaders and politicians from both parties were quick to push for troops' paychecks and benefits to be processed without delay.
Uniformed personnel remained on duty after funding for many government programs lapsed early Saturday morning. The Senate struck a deal Monday on temporary funding that will last through Feb. 8. The bill will head to the House for approval.
As another shutdown looms, servicemembers are operating at home and abroad without guarantee they'll be paid on time if this one continues or another one hits next month. Lawmakers have passed legislation during past shutdowns to ensure servicemembers and their families were paid and had access to survivor benefits, but Congress hadn't passed those protections this round.
Here's how leaders in the Pentagon, Trump administration, and Congress pressed to have that resolved.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis
Known for his motivating messages to troops in times of uncertainty or adversity, Mattis pledged to mitigate disruptions or financial burdens military families face during the shutdown.
“Steady as she goes - hold the line,” SecDef wrote in a DoD memo. “I know our Nation can count on you. Stay alert.”
Mattis told reporters Friday that “we need to see Congress back in the driver's seat on budget decisions, not in the spectator seat.” Without a budget, ships will not be maintained before they're put to sea, aircraft will remain grounded, pilots won't get adequate time in the cockpit, and ammunition, training, and manpower won't be sufficient enough to deter war, he said.
“For too long, we have asked our military to stoically carry a 'success at any cost' attitude as they work tirelessly to accomplish the mission with now inadequate and misaligned resources, simply because the Congress could not maintain regular order,” Mattis said. “We need a budget and we need budget predictability if we're to sustain our military's primacy.”
Vice President Mike Pence
Pence stopped at an undisclosed location on Sunday to address members of the Air Force's 332rd Air Expeditionary Wing during a trip to the Middle East. During his speech, Pence, the father of a Marine officer, addressed the politics playing out in Washington.
“Know this,” Pence told the airmen, “your president, your vice president, and the American people are not going to put up with it. We're going to demand that they reopen the government. In fact, we're not going to reopen negotiations on illegal immigration until they reopen the government and give you - our soldiers and your families - the benefits and wages you've earned.”
His pledge to reopen the government was met with applause, according to a White House transcript.
“Despite bipartisan support for a budget resolution, a minority in the Senate has decided to play politics with military pay,” Pence said. “But you deserve better. You and your families shouldn't have to worry for one minute about whether you're going to get paid as you serve in the uniform of the United States.”
Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.
Duckworth, a retired Army National Guard lieutenant colonel who lost her legs in Iraq, took to the Senate floor this weekend to address the threat of a lapse in pay and benefits for servicemembers. Duckworth cosponsored a bill introduced Friday that would make continuing appropriations for military pay and death benefits in the event of a shutdown. A similar bill was introduced in the House on Saturday.
“I am here, on the floor again, imploring my colleagues to take action - right now - on something we can all agree on,” Duckworth said Sunday. “That we ensure that this shutdown and the partisan gridlock does not harm the troops that are in harm's way right now, holding the line defending our nation.”
Servicemembers have enough to worry about without stressing about whether they'll receive their paychecks on time, she added.
“We need to take immediate action to pass the Pay Our Military Act to eliminate any threat of our military personnel not being paid - or even worse, our military families not receiving death benefits when their loved one must make that last full measure of devotion to this country.”
Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas
Thornberry, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said on Saturday that the military must be set free from “political drama,” and be provided with a proper spending bill.
An agreement on government funding was delayed, he said, “because of an unrelated immigration issue.”
“No issue, including this one, should prevent the 2 million men and women serving in the United States military and their families from getting the funding and support they need to do the job we have asked them to do,” Thornberry said. “It is wrong to hold them hostage for any other issue or for anyone's political agenda.”