FORT HOOD — Approximately 40 percent of Fort Hood’s civilian employees were furloughed on Monday due to the government shut down, which went into effect on 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.
“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, however, it is unclear whether patients were forced to reschedule pre-made appointments. A Darnall spokesperson was unable to send the information before the Herald’s deadline.
Although commissaries are normally closed during a government shut down, the Warrior Way commissary remained open on Monday, Rheinlander said. The Clear Creek commissary is closed every Monday as part of normal operating hours.
Despite the shut down, all Army & Air Force Exchange Service stores remained open, according to AAFES spokeswoman Julie Mitchell. Though the Exchange is part of the Department of Defense, the organization is a non appropriated 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 shut down 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.”
On Monday, U.S. Representative 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.”
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 on 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.”
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.