Nearly half of Fort Hood’s civilian employees — 40 percent — were furloughed Monday during the three-day government shutdown.
The shut down went into effect Saturday and ended Monday when Republican and Democrat members of the Senate agreed to a continuing resolution to fund the government through Feb. 8.
Fort Hood executed an orderly shutdown of impacted services for the first workday after the decision, said Fort Hood spokesman Tom Rheinlander. In total, nearly 5,000 Department of the Army civilians were affected.
“The remaining approximately 60 percent of the workforce adequately manned excepted services, which were deemed critical to maintain national security, such as processing and training soldiers as they prepare to deploy or re-deploy as well as activities that involve safety, health, installation security and protection of life and property,” Rheinlander said in a statement Monday afternoon. “Work by contractors, such as construction to the 1st Cavalry Division headquarters and other construction projects on Fort Hood, was not impacted.”
Fort Hood’s Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center was also impacted with some medical staff sent home, a hospital official verified.
Col. David Gibson, Darnall commander, said 627 civilians — approximately 27 percent of the Darnall workforce — were affected.
“(Darnall) leadership made a deliberate decision not to initially furlough anyone involved in direct patient care in order to ensure our ability to continue to provide high-quality and safe care to our beneficiaries,” Gibson said. “We did not cancel any appointments; however, a few community-based medical homes did experience minimal disruption early (Monday) morning as we worked through which employees would be furloughed.”
The hospital commander added that all surgical teams were able to complete already-scheduled surgeries.
Although commissaries are normally closed during a government shutdown, the Warrior Way commissary remained open Monday, Rheinlander said. The Clear Creek commissary is closed every Monday as part of normal operating hours.
Despite the shutdown, all Army & Air Force Exchange Service stores remained open, according to AAFES spokeswoman Julie Mitchell.
While the exchange is part of the Department of Defense, the organization is a nonappropriated fund entity, with nearly 100 percent of its operating budget coming from the sale of goods and services.
According to a joint statement by Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, the National Guard Association of the United States chairman of the board, and retired Brig. Gen. Roy Robinson, the association’s president, the impact of the three-day government shutdown on the National Guard was immediate.
“Even though it’s now possible that the government shutdown will last only one workday, its impact on National Guardsmen, their families and their employers will linger for weeks, if not months,” the release stated. “Guard leaders were forced to cancel training for more than 90,000 Guardsmen over the weekend. This includes a major combat exercise involving units from North Carolina, South Carolina and West Virginia that required six months of planning. Soldiers were in their aircraft and vehicles ready to go when they were told to pack up and go home. A chance to enhance their readiness was lost, as well as two days’ pay.”
The release went on to say that “(g)overnment shutdowns, stopgap budgets and spending caps are making it increasingly difficult to defend the greatest nation on earth. In order to plan, in order to keep our commitments to our troops and their families, and in order to maintain our readiness, we must have predictable, stable budgets. If Congress won’t do this on an annual basis, it should move to a two-year defense-budget cycle. Our ability to protect lives and property at home and defend our nation’s interests abroad in the years ahead may depend on it.”
On Monday, U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R–Austin, said “(A)fter three days of a senseless government shutdown, the Democrats gained nothing but the disappointment of the American people. This reckless stunt was an act of political grandstanding from the left at the expense of our servicemen and women. Congress must provide budget predictability to our military leaders and to our federal agencies. I urge all of my colleagues to assess the damaging effects of funding the government through continuing resolution, and urge the passage of a long-term funding package. Americans deserve better than this, and I encourage Democrats in both the House and the Senate to remember this failed protest before repeating a similar mistake on Feb. 8.”
Fort Hood is part of Williams’ district.
Prior to the vote to reopen the government, U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock — whose district also includes Fort Hood — sent a letter Monday to the House chief administrative officer to request his salary be withheld until an appropriations agreement takes effect to pay the troops.
“It is unacceptable that our troops will go unpaid, while Congress still draws their salary during the Schumer Shutdown,” Carter said. “Our soldiers at Fort Hood will continue working and fulfill their duty to keep our country safe, but because of Senate Democrats’ shutdown, they will not receive a paycheck for their hard work and sacrifice.”
The letter itself stated “I have been informed that despite a laps in appropriation and current government shut down, members of Congress will continue receiving their salary while our military will go unpaid. As a Representative of Fort Hood, Texas, I find this absolutely unacceptable.”
Under a government shutdown, the Department of Defense has no authority to pay death benefits to the families of service members, chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana White told CNN over the weekend.
As well as the payment — a life insurance benefit of $100,000 — the benefits include funeral and burial reimbursements and a gratuity for travel to funeral or memorial services.
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