October 04, 2013

Senator Manchin and 49 Bipartisan Senators Send Letter to Department of Defense to Ensure National Guard and Reserves Receive Pay During Government Shutdown

Letter signed by half the Senate

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Mark Udall (D-CO), John Hoeven (R-ND), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and 44 additional bipartisan Senators today sent a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel urging that the National Guard and Reserves, and the civilians who support our troops, receive pay during the government shutdown.

Even though the “Pay Our Military Act” was quickly signed into law before the government shut down to make sure all military personnel receive pay, there have been reports that many service members or civilians, especially in the National Guard and Reserves, have been furloughed without compensation.

“Before our government shut down, Washington unanimously agreed to make sure paychecks go out to our service members and those who dedicate their lives to protect us each and every day,” Manchin said. “It is simply not fair and not right that the National Guard and Reserves and other civilians who also work on our national security have been furloughed and are forced to stay at home without receiving their paychecks. I am encouraged that so many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle have swiftly come together to make this wrong a right. I thank the many West Virginia Guardsman and women, and their families, who contacted me about this issue: your voice matters.”

“Congress made it clear with the passage of the Pay Our Military Act that the financial well-being and readiness of those serving our country must not suffer due to gridlock on Capitol Hill,” Moran said. “I am deeply concerned over reports that members of our Armed Forces and civilians who are directly supporting soldiers and airmen are being furloughed. Congress has given the Department of Defense the authority and latitude to maintain pay and benefits for all service members and the civilians who support them. This must be rectified as soon as possible.”

“We cannot allow this foolish and counterproductive shutdown to place our country at any more risk than it already has. The men and women in uniform who safeguard our national security and the civilians who provide essential support to our troops should not be victimized by a politically driven act that deprives them of their pay and harms their morale," Udall said. "Thousands of Coloradans stand watch over us every day, and I'm urging Secretary Hagel to exercise the authority Congress has given him to keep our troops, Department of Defense civilian employees and reservists on the job.”

“While we continue to work toward finding a compromise to fund the government, it is vital that our men and women in uniform receive their pay and benefits,” said Hoeven. “We made it clear to Secretary Hagel that the nation needs to continue paying our troops and those who support them as they work to protect and defend our country.”

“This week, Congress unanimously passed the ‘Pay Our Military Act’ to ensure our men and women in uniform, and those that support them, receive the pay and benefits they’ve earned,” Pryor said. “Unfortunately, I’m still hearing about furloughs happening at military bases across my state. That’s unacceptable. I was proud to team up with this bipartisan coalition of senators to right this wrong, and I’ll continue to press the Department of Defense so we can protect the families who have sacrificed so much for our country.”

“It’s unacceptable that more than 300 New Hampshire National Guard military technicians are being furloughed.  I urge the Department of Defense to use the maximum discretion available under the law to avoid furloughs for military technicians in the National Guard and for DoD civilians like those at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard,” said Ayotte, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.  “Our men and women in uniform who are helping to defend our country, and the skilled DoD civilians who support them at our depots and shipyards, should not have to worry about being furloughed because of dysfunction in Washington.”

“Our nearly 45,000 members, all of them current or former National Guard officers, applaud this bipartisan effort to do what's right for all of our force," said retired Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett, the president of the National Guard Association of the United States.  "Sequester, and now this shutdown, are quickly degrading both military readiness and morale.  We thank all those in Congress who are truly putting America first and working to quickly stem this dangerous slide before it also puts the nation's defense and security at risk.”

Senators Manchin, Moran, Udall, Hoeven, Pryor, Ayotte and 44 additional senators sent the letter to Secretary Hagel requesting that the Department of Defense resolve any discrepancies immediately to make sure that those who serve this country, and their families, receive the paychecks they have earned and deserve. The Senators urged the Department of Defense to use the authority that they’ve been given by Congress to maintain our national security without interruption. 

The following United States Senators sent the letter to Secretary Hagel.

Joe Manchin III, Jerry Moran, Mark Udall, Kelly Ayotte, Mark Pryor, John Hoeven, John D. Rockefeller IV, Pat Roberts, Jeanne Shaheen, Richard Blumenthal, Michael Bennet, Patrick Leahy, Dianne Feinstein, Mark Kirk, Susan M. Collins, Saxby Chambliss, Debbie Stabenow, Tom Udall, John Boozman, Johnny Isakson, Joe Donnelly, Mazie K. Hirono, Mark Begich, Barbara Boxer, Robert Menendez, Chris Coons, Ron Wyden, Heidi Heitkamp, Benjamin L. Cardin, Mary Landrieu, Bill Nelson, Angus S. King, Tim Johnson, Amy Klobuchar, Bernard Sanders, Roy Blunt, Jon Tester, Martin Heinrich, Max Baucus, Charles E. Grassley, Al Franken, Pat Toomey, Richard Burr, Dan Coats, Chris Murphy, Jeff Sessions, James Inhofe, Kay Hagan, Dean Heller and Roger Wicker.

To read the entire letter sent to Defense Secretary Hagel, please see below:

Dear Secretary Hagel,

One of the issues that this divided Congress can agree on is ensuring that our troops who serve in harm’s way, and those that support them, receive the pay and benefits that they have earned. That is why Congress unanimously passed the “Pay Our Military Act” and the President quickly signed the bill into law.

The “Pay Our Military Act” gives the Department of Defense broad latitude to pay service members and civilians. The bill does not limit the provision of pay to civilians or certain service members who were previously categorized by the Administration as 'excepted' or 'essential' during sequestration furloughs. The law that we recently passed is explicitly clear: all members of the Armed Forces, including Reserve component personnel serving in an active status, will be paid in the event of a government shutdown. Further, the bill requires that civilian Department of Defense personnel “providing support to members of the Armed Forces” continue to receive their pay and allowances.

Unfortunately, we are receiving disturbing and conflicting reports from constituents and military personnel that uniformed service members and civilians who are directly supporting troops, including those in combat, are being furloughed. It is our understanding that under the current Department of Defense guidance, our National Guard and Reserves are seeing disruptions for personnel, to include:

• Traditional members of the Guard or Reserve who attend drill and annual training, including those who are performing domestic disaster relief and recovery operations; and
• Dual-status technicians, who are uniformed service members, and also non-dual status technicians; and
• Active Guard Reserve (AGR) personnel; and
• Personnel on short-term, mission-essential, active duty tours (commonly known as ADOS); and
• Federally reimbursed state civilians, such as firefighters, air traffic controllers and other civilians in direct support of military operations.

Beyond the impact on the National Guard and Reserves, we have also received reports of civilians who have been furloughed, even though they directly support deployed troops and their family members.

Therefore, we urge you to review the policies that the services are disseminating to their commands to ensure that the spirit of the “Pay Our Military Act” is upheld and that guidance is standard across the services. Congress has given you the authority to maintain our national security without interruption. We strongly believe that all service members, and the civilians that support them, should receive equitable and fair treatment under this law. 

Thank you for reviewing this matter.