Press Release

RELEASE: How a Shutdown Will Affect Our Military

By Lawrence J. Korb, Rudy deLeon, Laura Conley

WASHINGTON, D.C.–Yesterday the Center for American Progress released the column “How a Shutdown Would Affect Our Military: Closing the Government Hurts Readiness, Pay, and Key Programs,” by Lawrence J. Korb, Rudy deLeon, Laura Conley, which addresses the current debate on how a potential shutdown would affect our nation’s military readiness and the welfare of our troops and their families.

This impending budget crisis inevitably evokes comparisons to the winter of 1995-1996 when President Bill Clinton and the Republican-controlled Congress were unable to reach agreement on the overall fiscal year 1996 budget for nearly three weeks. But DOD had a budget in place during that period. This time it does not.

For this reason the current situation more closely resembles the shorter and less-publicized Clinton-era shutdown of November 1995 when lawmakers had yet to approve defense appropriations for that fiscal year. Without a budget or continuing resolution, that shutdown forced DOD to suspend all nonessential functions. It threatened to significantly disrupt a number of operations at the department:

  • 250,000 civilian DOD employees were sent home. An additional 571,000 continued working without pay.
  • 160,000 troops in the National Guard were not authorized to complete their regular monthly drills.
  • DOD medical facilities were ordered to cease elective surgeries and refuse to carry out or even schedule routine appointments for all but active-duty personnel.
  • The department lost its ability to pay Pentagon contractors but “authorized the continuation of any contract activity where the activity would have been exempted had it been done by military personnel or government employees.”
  • Military recruiting offices throughout the country closed, though DOD officials said they would be reopened if the shutdown continued longer than a week because of the long-term effects on military readiness.

A similar shutdown now would impose a significant burden on an already overburdened force. Over the past decade the tempo of deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan has turned the National Guard and Reserve into an operational rather than strategic reserve, which means continuing regular drills is particularly important. Delayed troop pay was another concern during the November 1995 shutdown, and it has re-emerged in the current shutdown discussions. All active-duty troops in 1995 were required to report for duty, as were some members of the National Guard and Reserve. Civilian functions critical to U.S. national security were filled by personnel designated as “essential” but they were required to report to work without pay.

For the full column, click here.

To speak with Lawrence Korb or Rudy deLeon, please contact Christina DiPasquale at 202-481-8181 or [email protected]