Shutdown Prep (Updated)

By Titus Ledbetter III, Cid Standifer / April 5, 2011 at 5:14 PM

With three days to go before an ever more likely government shutdown, the Pentagon has yet to issue official guidance to service leaders to determine which functions would continue to be funded while the rest of the federal government goes dark.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell told reporters this afternoon that guidance is still being formulated and will be issued shortly.

“The clock is ticking,” Morrell said. “Obviously we hope to do it sooner than later so that these components can have the time to figure out” what qualifies as essential services for national security.

Marcus Weisgerber of Defense News reported in early March that draft guidance had been issued in anticipation of a potential March 4 shutdown.

Asked why the guidance had not been issued on the eve of a shutdown, Morrell said, “We're not quite on the eve of it, and these are determinations that aren't necessarily durable.”

Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said today that all of the services are examining which of their activities would continue under a shutdown and how to deal with their civilian and contracted work forces, but no decisions have been made yet.

Planning will include discussions on which military personnel are exempt and non-exempt from the government shutdown, Donley said. Officials will also try to figure out how they would implement an approach once it has been developed. Donley said that he did not want to talk about the specifics of the planning options.

The comptroller for U.S. Fleet Forces Command wrote on USFF head Adm. John Harvey's blog that military personnel and exempt civilians will not get paid over a government shutdown unless Congress specifically passes a law authorizing such pay. Sailors will also have to put in overtime to cover for civilians sent home under a shutdown, Capt. Patrick Ward wrote.

“With history as the yardstick, there has never been an occasion that Congress has not authorized back pay for all government employees affected by the shutdown, including those who did not render services during the shutdown,” Ward added. “Although not a guarantee, my professional opinion is that Congress will pass legislation authorizing payment for all military and exempt civilian personnel who will continue working during the shutdown. Whether they will continue historical practices and do the same for non-exempt personnel who are furloughed could be a separate matter.”

President Obama told reporters this afternoon that he would not support another continuing resolution to keep the budget at fiscal year 2010 levels unless lawmakers can reach an agreement on an official FY-11 budget first.

“I can't have [agencies] making decisions based on two-weeks-at-a-time budgets,” he said. “We are now at the point where there's no excuse to extend this further.”