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In shutdown, US troops will stay on duty: Pentagon

by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) April 7, 2011
If the US government shuts down over a budget impasse, American troops and some private contractors will stay on the job but they will not get paid, the Pentagon said Thursday.

From Afghanistan to Libya, US military operations around the world would continue without interruption in the event of a shutdown, Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn said in a message to the Pentagon's vast workforce.

"The DoD (Department of Defense) will continue to conduct activities in support of our national security, including operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Japan; Libya-related support operations; and other operations and activities essential to the security of our nation," the memo said.

But Lynn reiterated that the government would not have money to pay troops -- including the more than 140,000 in Afghanistan and Iraq -- and civilian contractors working during a shutdown.

"If the government shuts down due to the absence of funding, the DoD will have no funds to pay military members or civilian employees for the days during which the government is shut down.

"However, both military and civilian personnel will receive pay for the period worked prior to the shutdown," he said.

Once the budget row is resolved and Congress eventually approves funding, troops and contractors ordered to report for duty would eventually receive pay for the time worked during the shutdown, officials said.

US lawmakers arguing over the budget are anxious to avoid being blamed for delaying paychecks to a volunteer force that has come under severe strain after years of war.

Members of both parties tend to go to great lengths to show they "support the troops" and every year vote for pay raises beyond that requested by the military leadership.

Apart from the military's roughly 1.4 million active duty service members, it was unclear how many contractors would be asked to keep working, but the United States increasingly relies on a growing number of contractors to support operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.

Apart from military operations, the Pentagon also had designated other activities as essential that would continue, including medical care services, mess halls, child care, some legal services, logistics, training, department schools and some financial accounting, according to the memo.

Services not deemed essential "will need to be shut down in an orderly fashion," it said.

While the administration still hoped the political impasse over the budget would be resolved, "prudent management requires that we plan for an orderly shutdown should Congress be unable to pass a funding bill before our current funding expires on April 8," it said.

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