400,000 DOD Workers Lose Pay if Congress Fails to Pass Budget

Congress' failure to pass a budget axes death benefits, travel, and imposes more furloughs.

Robert F. Hale, the Defense Department's comptroller and chief financial officer, briefs the press about a potential government shutdown and its effects on the Defense Department at the Pentagon, Sept. 27, 2013.
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Many key facets of the Department of Defense would come to a grinding halt if Congress fails to agree on some sort of budget by Monday, heaping yet another round of pain on its sequestration-weary civilian employees.

[READ: Pentagon Fails to Consider Large, Grim Option for Budget Cuts]

Training and travel, pay in the case of deaths and all paychecks are among the items that would be cut if the government is forced to shut down, according to a contingency plan the Pentagon released on Friday. Active duty military members would be exempt from the cuts, as would any civilians directly supporting "excepted activities," such as the war in Afghanistan or emergency services.

Roughly half of the 800,000 Department of Defense civilians who do not fit those categories will find themselves fully furloughed.

"These furloughs are very different than the sequester furloughs that occurred this summer," said Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale. "If DODs appropriations lapse, we can only conduct limited activities specifically authorized by law."

Sequestration furloughs, which ultimately resulted in six unpaid work days for DOD civilians, were prompted by a demand to cut costs, said Hale. This allowed the Department to ultimately move funds around to lower the total days they thought they would have to enact furloughs from 22 to 11, and finally to the resulting six.

These furloughs are mandated by law, he said, requiring the roughly 400,000 civilian employees worldwide to stop coming to work entirely.

"[This] is one more blow to the moral of our civilian workforce," said Hale. "That morale is already low. It can get lower, and that adversely affects productivity and cost the taxpayers money."

[ALSO: Hagel Reduces Civilian Furlough Days]

All employees of the Department of Defense, including active duty military members, would not receive their paychecks until Congress passes an appropriations bill. Military members would be retroactively paid automatically upon the passage of a budget, but furloughed civilians would have to wait for separate congressional approval to get their back pay.

The Department of Veterans Affairs would continue providing medical and clinical services, a spokesman for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America writes at DefenseOne.com. This also extends to counseling services and the 24-hour Veterans Crisis Line.

Roughly 450,000 veterans remain in a backlog to receive VA benefits, writes IAVA's Tom Tarantino. Efforts to reduce that number will likely be hampered by a shutdown, he says.

Other services that would be delayed include the gratuities paid to the families of fallen troops who died after the budget lapse began.

Services at Arlington National Cemetery would likely continue, Hale said, as would other excepted activities such as the ongoing investigation at the Washington Navy Yard.

Most Defense contractors would likely continue working, since they funds were allocated before the budget lapse would begin.

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