- The Washington Times - Friday, September 27, 2013

The Pentagon plans to delay troops’ pay, furlough about half of its civilian workforce and close base commissaries if Congress does not pass a short-term spending bill this weekend and the government is forced to shut down, according to a Defense Department memo.

About 400,000 civilian workers, including technicians who are not needed for “excepted activities,” will be required to take unpaid leave, the memo states. Workers would be issued back pay only if legislation restores it.

For excepted activities, only the minimum number of employees needed for the work will conduct those activities.

Active duty and reserve personnel will continue to report for duty, and may be assigned to take on additional duties in place of furloughed civilians, but would not be paid until funding is restored.

Troops’ pay would begin to be affected on Oct. 7 at the earliest, Pentagon comptroller Robert Hale said at a briefing Friday.

“We would also be required to do some other bad things to our people,” said Mr. Hale. “Just some examples: We couldn’t immediately pay death gratuities to those who die on active duty during the lapse. We would have to close stateside commissaries.

“Promotion boards and other similar important personnel activities would be disrupted, probably have to be stopped, and a number of other actions.”

In addition, training and travel for military and civilian employees would be disrupted, he said.

In the event of a lapse in funding, the Pentagon can conduct only activities designed to protect life and property, and carry out a few other activities.

Obama administration lawyers interpret that to mean that the Defense Department can support specific operations approved by the secretary of defense, such as the Afghanistan war.

“We can also maintain emergency services: police, fire, emergency medical,” Mr. Hale said.

Excepted activities include military health care and some educational activities, according to the memo from Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.

“Your commanders and supervisors will be reaching out to you to provide additional detail on our contingency plans and your status under a potential lapse,” the memo said. “These conversations are designed to provide clarity on how a potential lapse will affect you, but they do not constitute an official notice of furlough. Official furlough notices will only be issued on October 1st if a lapse in funding has occurred,” the memo states.

Senate-confirmed officials appointed by the president and some of their office personnel are not subject to furlough. Neither are foreign national employees paid with host country funds or governed by country-to-country agreements that prohibit furloughs.

Contractors performing under fully funded contracts awarded before the shutdown may continue to work, regardless of whether the activities are excepted. However, they could be subjected to a pay delay or, if furloughed, receive back pay if legislation restores it.

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