Members of the uniformed military services would not be subject to furlough in the event of a government shutdown, regardless of whether they’re directly engaged in warfighting, according to guidance prepared by the Office of the Secretary of Defense earlier this month.
In addition to not being paid during a shutdown, all military personnel, including reservists who are on active duty, would be required to report for duty as usual.
Besides carrying out duties that are exempted from a shutdown because they are in the interest of national security, military members potentially would be required to perform non-exempted duties that would normally be handled by DoD civilians. That’s because unlike uniformed military members, civilians whose jobs are deemed not to be exempt from a shutdown would be sent home.
“Civilian personnel who are not necessary to carry out or support exempt activities are to be furloughed,” the contingency plan states. “Only the minimum number of civilian employees necessary to carry out exempt activities will be exempt from furlough. Positions that provide direct support to exempt positions may also be deemed exempt if they are critical to performing the exempt activity.”
DoD drafted the plan in advance of the expiration date of a previous continuing resolution that funded the government through March 4. Pentagon officials emphasized that Defense Secretary Robert Gates did not expect a shutdown, and that the guidance was intended only to help DoD components conduct “prudent planning.”
Congress currently has funded the government through March 17. The House and Senate are negotiating over another CR that would fund agencies through April 8.
The DoD memo grants authority to each of the secretaries of the departments and the heads of Defense agencies to make determinations as to which functions would be exempt from shutdown, but gives direction to help them make those decisions.
It instructs the services to make exempt-or-nonexempt determinations for each and every civilian position, including members of the Senior Executive Service. Any official subject to Senate confirmation, however, is automatically deemed to be in direct support of exempt activities, and cannot be furloughed, the memo states.
Other civilian workers who would be exempt from a furlough include those whose salaries are paid by special funds that have separate funding authority, such as multi-year appropriations that have money available. Foreign nationals whose salaries are paid by their own countries or fall under an international agreement that prohibits a furlough also would be exempt.
Additionally, the memo makes it clear that DoD contractors can continue to work under some circumstances. Work can continue on a contract that has been “fully obligated,” regardless of whether that work is deemed to be exempt from a shutdown. Also, DoD can enter into new contracts or place new task orders for work that’s so urgent that a delay would put national security or human life or property at risk.
In addition to work that’s part of ongoing wars or vital to national security or the protection of life or property, the memo carves out other exemptions, though it emphasizes that the list should not be considered exhaustive. Among them:
Legal activities connected to imminent or ongoing litigation or in support of other work that’s exempt, such as deployments;