It’s now been more than a month since parts of the federal government shut down, and for the first time that I know of, members of the military are not getting a paycheck.
Even though they are still putting on their uniforms and are hard at work.
On March 1, 2003, the U.S. Coast Guard was transferred from under the umbrella of the Department of Defense and put under the Department of Homeland Security. Now, I understand why it was done — the big part of the Coast Guard’s job is to protect our own coasts — but I think it was probably one of the worst ideas ever.
The majority of those not getting paid are with DHS, considering it’s homeland security that seems to be the current particular sticking point on funding. And until Congress gets its act together and starts doing the job they were sent to do, our brothers and sisters in the Coast Guard are not getting a check.
This doesn’t sit right with me. When I was deployed to Basra, Iraq, we had a nearby port. Guess who was there guarding it — yep, the Coast Guard. When I was deployed to Djibouti, not only was the Coast Guard protecting our shipping industry going in through the port, they were actively tracking down pirates to ensure the security of personnel on Camp Lemonnier.
When I went to journalism school at the Defense Information School in Fort Meade, Maryland, one of my instructors was from the Coast Guard, as were several of my classmates. When I go to the Veterans Affairs hospital in Temple, I often run into Coast Guard veterans. In other words, the Coast Guard is still a military branch, regardless of the fact they are often treated like the red-headed stepchild.
Fortunately for the military, ensuring our troops gets paid is usually a bipartisan effort in Congress. Probably because no senator or representative wants to be responsible for troops in a combat zone dying for worrying more about their families back home than completing their mission.
But that is exactly what is happening now with the Coast Guard. Because they fall under the auspice of DHS, our Coasties are doing just that until such time as our government quits acting like a bunch of children trying to see who can hold their breath the longest. We have men in women in uniform putting their lives in danger while worrying about whether they’ll be able to pay bills and feed their families.
I say enough of that. Put the Coast Guard back under DoD and update DoD’s budget to reflect their mission. We don’t allow our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines to go without pay; our Coasties should be no different.
David A. BRYANT is an Army retiree and a military journalist for the Killeen Daily Herald. You can reach him at =.com or 254-501-7554.