As the Feb. 15 deadline looms to fund portions of the federal government, MOAA is advocating for legislation that would protect pay for all uniformed services - including non-DoD members - during government shutdowns.
Legislation introduced in the House and Senate would ensure Coast Guard members are paid, but MOAA has engaged with representatives about how to cover commissioned officers of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as well as those with the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) who are working with unfunded agencies. Specific legislation regarding these agencies has not been introduced, though bills in both the House and Senate would guarantee all federal employees exempted from furlough continue to be paid during a future funding lapse.
[ACT NOW: Tell your members or Congress to Protect Coast Guard, NOAA Corps and USPHS pay.]
The flurry of legislation follows the longest government shutdown in history, which ended Jan. 25. Another partial shutdown would begin Feb. 15 if a new deal isn't in place.
“These servicemembers are performing missions critical to the nation's security, and their pay should not be withheld to facilitate political bargaining,” said Col. Dan Merry, USAF (Ret), MOAA's vice president of government relations. “MOAA supports the Pay Our Coast Guard Act, and the work of USPHS and NOAA Commissioned Corps members can't be overlooked - they deserve similar legislation on their behalf.”
[RELATED READING: MOAA President Calls for an End to the Government Shutdown]
During the shutdown, MOAA and other service groups sent a letter to Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) as well as six co-chairmen of the Congressional Coast Guard Caucus, encouraging him to reintroduce legislation that would have guaranteed pay and allowance for Coast Guard members during a shutdown.
Similar legislation to ensure pay for the Coast Guard was introduced in the House by Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-N.J.), who represents Cape May, the training site for the Coast Guard's enlisted force.
Neither Van Drew's nor Thune's office said there are plans to include exemptions for NOAA and Public Health in upcoming legislation, but Van Drew said he is working on separate legislation that would cover salaries for all federal workers.
“It's terrible for everybody when something like this happens,” he said. “We're working on other legislation that has been presented as well that would put in place a [continuing resolution] that would fund the salaries - so essentially, [we] can't close the government. I think the ultimate answer is we just shouldn't do this anymore.”
Thousands of those who were furloughed or worked without pay were veterans, Merry said, “and any efforts to prevent that from happening again are welcome ones. The best fix, though, is a bipartisan agreement to fully fund government, which would allow lawmakers to move onto other critical matters, including several that will impact servicemembers, veterans, and their families.”
Adm. Karl Schultz, commandant of the Coast Guard, thanked servicemembers and civilians for their continued work through the shutdown, which was the first time in history that servicemembers had not been paid during a shutdown.