Fort Hood residents can still utilize their bowling alley, but not the program for special-needs children. They can buy booze, but not groceries.
The confusing list of services operating despite the federal shutdown provides a unique lesson in government funding — what does Congress pay for and what pays for itself?
“Many (Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation) facilities remain open because their revenue source is nonappropriated funds, meaning the government does not directly support their operation,” said Maj. Adam Weece, a spokesman for III Corps and Fort Hood.
The commissary is operated by the Defense Commissary Agency and is government-funded. The 5 percent surcharge added to groceries goes to pay for improvements to commissary facilities, as well as store construction, maintenance and repair, and equipment, according to the commissary website. Employees are not paid through the surcharge.
Army & Air Force Exchange Service, on the other hand, uses its profit to support its facilities and employees. The remainder is given to the Army’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation.
The Fort Hood Exchange provided more than $3.8 million to local programs and facilities, including Belton Lake Outdoor Recreational Area, the Courses of Clear Creek and Phantom Warrior Lanes Bowling, according to an August release.
Regardless, some morale programs are still feeling the impacts, as in the case of the cancellation of the on-post deer bow hunting season, Weece said.
“It is an MWR program but the lack of government-paid wildlife officials to monitor the event has forced its cancellation,” he said.
DETERMINING WHO GETS FURLOUGHED
The term “nonessential” has been used to describe furloughed employees and also caused some confusion.
“The term mission essential is not a furlough-unique label,” said Weece, citing information gathered from post officials. “A mission-essential person is an employee who would be required to report to work should there be a traumatic event such as a mass shooting, fire, flood, ice, massive power failure, etc., and who has been so identified by the employee’s supervisor.”
Furlough rules limit these “excepted” employees to the bare minimum needed to support life, health and safety functions. Employees at programs such as Survivor Outreach Services, the Exceptional Family Member Program and relocation and retirement services, fill a valid need, but don’t meet this criteria.
While Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Saturday that he plans to recall most of the Pentagon’s furloughed workers as early as Monday, the announcement’s immediate impact on Fort Hood civilian employees and services was unclear.
Col. Matt Elledge, garrison commander, said Friday people should expect post operations to continue at the same level this week as the previous one.
“We will reassess our capabilities to provide services as more guidance comes (in),” he said.