DOD Background Briefing with Senior Defense Officials from the Pentagon on DOD Processes in the Event of a Government Shutdown
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Let me start by saying I very much hope we can avert a government shutdown. It'll be harsh and unfair to our people. It will be inefficient and disruptive.
But we are a country of laws, and if we go through a government shutdown, we will follow the law, and that's important to realize. We won't be following a set of priorities, necessarily, but rather a specific set of laws, the Anti-Deficiency Act and exception to it. The Anti-Deficiency Act basically says if we don't have an appropriation, we can't obligate or disburse funds, except with some very narrow exceptions for safety of life and protection of property. And based on those exceptions, we can maintain key national security functions -- the war in Afghanistan, the transition in Iraq, the Libya operations, the humanitarian operations in Japan -- and other key national security missions, and the support that's directly required for the legal, financial, acquisition.
Because of these exceptions and the nature of their employment -- of their employment, we will direct all of our military personnel to continue working in the event of a shutdown.
Civilians would be different. Only civilians who are in excepted positions -- in other words, they meet those exceptions -- would be directed to continue work. The others would be placed on no-notice non-pay furlough status. We expect roughly half of DOD's civilians, around 400,000 [of approximately 800,000] civilians, will be furloughed, although we won't know the details, because the decisions are made at our bases and installations, until we actually go through it next Monday, if we have to. And that leads to my harsh treatment -- pretty tough -- on the men and women who support our national security.
Shutdown rules will lead to some pay problems and issues. The April 15th payday for the military will feature only half a paycheck. Again, that's governed by rules. That's certainly not a choice we're making.
We will be able to pay the military retroactively once we get an appropriation, but of course, in the meantime, I mean, it's tough on men and women in the military. They’ve got kids to feed and mortgages and car payments, like we all do.
Case of civilians, because of the way the pay period breaks, the pay on April 15th will be complete, full paycheck for most of our civilian employees.
If it were to go as long as April 30th, then neither civilian nor military would get any pay at all. In the case of the civilians, the ones who are directed to work would be paid retroactively when we get an appropriation. Those who were on furlough, we would need special legislative authority from the Congress in order to pay them.
And military and civilian salaries won't be only pay problems. I'll give you one other example. We won't be allowed to pay death gratuities, the $100,000 we pay to men and women who die in the line of duty. We could pay that retroactively once we get an appropriation. We're looking for ways to be helpful in the meantime, but we won't be able to pay the full amount.
There will be other problems, inefficiencies. Just the time spent, frankly, planning this is an inefficiency, in my view. I'll give you some other examples. Drilling reservists, many of them won't be in excepted status. Some of them are already on their way to this weekend's drill. If we have to shut down the government tonight, we may have to tell them just turn around and head home. But under the orderly transition rules, we'll probably end up paying them for a good part of the time and expenses even though they won't get any training.
It will also be disruptive of normal operations. We can't perform routine maintenance on buildings, or wouldn't be able to. Support equipment. We can try to catch up, but it's hard because we've got a workforce that will need to move on. We'll have to suspend most routine classroom training. Again, we could try to catch up, but if you stop a class in the middle, it's hard to get people back. Obviously, it's disruptive. We'd have to, for example -- or it could disrupt military promotion boards. Some supply operations not directly connected with wartime activities could be disrupted.
So for all of these reasons -- disruption, inefficiency -- I very much hope this doesn't happen, but if it does, I can tell you we're planning and we'll do our best to be prepared.
So with that, I'll stop and say if you've got questions.
Q: Lolita Baldor with AP. A couple questions on -- can you narrow down for us, the personnel here within the Pentagon building itself, about how many military personnel and civilian personnel are we talking about in those categories? And then on the pay issue, you mentioned that the military would only get half of their pay. Is that even if, say, the shutdown lasts a day or two? They still would only get half?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah, well, the first question first. My understanding is there are about 23,000 people that work here in the Pentagon, roughly 16,000 military, 7,000 civilian. I can't -- the military will all be directed to come to work. I can't tell you specifically now exactly how many civilians, whether it will be -- I suspect it might be a bit more than half, but I just don't know. These decisions do get made -- we delegate these decisions, as we should, and so until we actually go through the process, I can't be sure.
On the pay, I think we've been trying -- Defense Finance and Accounting Service [DFAS], that pays our military and DOD civilians, most of them, is working very hard with what-ifs. They've gone out of their way. They worked on weekends, tried to trick our computer systems. I think they feel that if we got an appropriation by next Tuesday, they could make the normal payday by Friday. If it goes beyond that, we may have to do a special catch-up payday at some point for the retroactive pay.
Q: You were talking about the $100,000 death benefit. Just to clarify all of that, death means -- is that strictly for people who die in combat or as a result of --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: No, I think it's in the line of duty. I think even if they were killed in a training accident, they would get it.
Q: Okay. So you're saying people who die in the line of duty, their families will not receive the death penalty.
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: We won't be able to pay it during the period of the shutdown. Basically, we can't disburse money during the period of the shutdown. We have some exceptions that allow us to obligate money -- I know I sound like (briefer title deleted) now, but to make legally binding commitments, but we can't write checks or electronic funds transfer, so we wouldn't be able to pay it. Now, we are looking for ways to try to be helpful. We will do our best to --
Q: What are you looking at? What do you think you can do?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Well, I'm hoping we might be able to get some of the aid organizations to make interest-free loans, for example, and they'd pay them back when we were able to pay them, something like that. And this is background, right. I'm not sure. We don't have all of this nailed down. We'll try to be helpful, but the law is the law.
As I said, this is not mission any more or certainly our priorities; this is a very specific set of rules connected with the Anti-Deficiency Act .
Q: (Inaudible) --
Q: Is there anything -- I'm sorry, if I could just follow up. Is there anything you are looking at in particular to perhaps help wounded still in hospitals or their families?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Oh, we'll continue care in our hospitals.
Q: (Inaudible) -- benefits for their families and that --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I think in general, I mean, I think most of those would continue. I'm trying to think through exactly -- we will make every -- we'll take care of any emergency treatment and support treatment for wounded warriors, and all we can do with their families.
In many cases we can -- if we're buying services for them, we can put it on a credit card and pay the -- which we could legally do, because we can obligate the money and then pay the bill when the -- later, when we have an appropriation.
So there a number of work-arounds, but when we -- finally gets down to it, we can't disburse money. It's just not legal.
STAFF: Tom without an H and then Thom with an H.
Q: As you know, some of the 101st soldiers are coming back to Fort Campbell. A lot are still over in Afghanistan. Walk us through how this shutdown would affect, let's say, a 24-year-old mother whose husband is over in Afghanistan. I know Campbell's going to start shutting down after-school programs -- (inaudible) -- baseball. What else would that woman see shut down? Would the commissaries, PXs -- what would happen?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Well, first, I think the major problem would be that on April 15th, if it's still going on, her husband or spouse would only get half a paycheck. And obviously that is a potential serious problem.
In terms of commissaries, we actually haven't nailed that one down. We're still discussing that particular one. There probably would be some activities -- you mentioned the baseball. The schools will stay open.
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: That is our intent.
Q: Day care centers.
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Day care centers will stay open.
Some of the sports activities that you discussed might be funded with non-appropriated funds and they wouldn't be directly affected.
Q: Campbell said they're going to shut down their after-school programs.
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Okay. That may be. You know, I mean, we do do this on a -- I'm not running all this -- I'm glad to say.
But I think the big problem's going to be -- this goes to Friday, April 15th; suddenly they only got half a paycheck, and I think that'll be a real problem for people. Again, we can do what we can through aid societies for folks in serious problems, but there's only so much they can handle.
Q: And the commissary point -- you're going to figure that one out?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I don't know yet for sure what we're going to do with the commissaries.
Q: And let's say you get half a paycheck. You're -- as Secretary Gates and others have, people go paycheck to paycheck. Is there any way to help them? Is there -- is there any safety net in place --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Well, I mean, I think the best thing we could do is look to the -- your -- the aid societies. They're very helpful in these situations when there's true crises.
But unfortunately -- I mean, we're a country of laws, and the law won't let me disburse money to pay. I can't do it. And so I -- (briefer title deleted) can't do much, except the services will try to do what they can to take care of people.
Q: Will all the military requires that it purchases from the private sector -- food, fuel, those sorts of things -- is that what you'll be obligating for? That probably makes sense for domestic contractors, but when you spend time deployed with the troops, so much of what they purchase is on the local economy -- the bottled water and all of that. Do those contractors understand and expect an obligation from the Defense Department?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Well, that's a good question. I mean, we can make the obligation. We can enter into the contract. We -- we can't pay them if it's immediately payable. We would not be able to do that.
Now let me make one more distinction for you. And I know I keep sounding like a (briefer title deleted), but there's a whole bunch of laws here. If the contract was signed before the shutdown occurs and the money was obligated, we can make payments, because the money's set aside, in a sense.
If the contract's signed afterwards, first it would have to be for an exception -- excepted activity, but a war would -- so that Afghanistan would certainly count -- and we couldn't disburse money. Would they except it? My guess is, they would. In the end, they'll -- but that would have be their call, and there could be some problems.
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: That's -- I've got my fiscal lawyer with me, (staff name deleted), for some help -- that sound right to you?
I may occasionally turn to them. I hope you'll forgive me, but I call this dancing on the head of a fiscal law pin. There are a lot of rules here, and so I've kept my fiscal lawyers close.
Q: On the -- on the death benefit, can you just -- how long does it normally take to pay those out anyway? I mean, it would -- I mean, is this something --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I think we pay them quite quickly.
Q: Pay in, say, weeks – or days --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah, I think so, because we're trying to help people during obviously a very difficult time with some extraordinary expenses.
Q: Okay. So usually this is something that comes right away --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I think so, yes.
Q: And it's -- what are the kind of problems that someone would face, having not actually thought this through before? What are the kind of problems someone would face not having that? You just talked about expenses.
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Well, I mean, I suppose paying for the funeral might be -- would come to my mind. I mean, they're going to -- it wouldn't happen that week, but there will be a loss of paycheck occurring, since the person will no longer be working. So --
Q: How many death gratuities, benefits are paid out in any given period --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I want to say it's the hundred to 150 a month. I mean, it's not a huge number, but obviously a kind of heart-rending thing.
Q: You talked about contractors. What would be the impact on the large defense contractors like Lockheed Martin and others, realistically?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Well, for contracts that are set up and funded at the time the shutdown occurs, they could continue work. There is a proviso here that we need to provide supervision. And we wouldn't be allowed under the law to bring in a federal employee solely for the purpose of supervision.
But since we will direct our military work and because if you're here intermittently for an accepted activity, you might have time to do the supervision of it. In many cases, that could probably go forward. And they would be -- if the contract were signed and money obligated before the shutdown, we would be able to pay them, I think for a short period of time, probably limited some, but not a huge amount.
If this were to go on for a significant period of time, there would be more problems. As new contracts come up, we could only enter into them if they were then for these excepted, E-X-C-E-P-T, activities, such as the war in Afghanistan.
Q: Are there any significant contracts looming that would be affected by this --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: That I don't know. That I don't know.
Q: Is there a crash program in signing contracts before the deadline?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Oh, I doubt it. You know, it -- there's a process here that you can speed up to some extent. But I don't think there's too many -- you're going to be able to say, gee, I'm going to pull all these forward -- maybe a few.
STAFF: Chris .
Q: Is there a specific reason why the troops are not getting paid this time as opposed to the 1995 shutdown?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Help me.
STAFF: '95 shutdown was of such short duration that there wasn't actually any interruption in pay days for the military.
Q: Is that because of the time of the month when --
Q: -- when it occurred?
Q: Okay. So if this shutdown had occurred --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: A week ago, for example --
Q: -- a week ago --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: We'd have had two weeks then.
Q: If it only lasted four or five days, there would be no disruption?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: No.
Q: How will they get the money back once the shutdown ends? Will that paycheck on April 30 potentially have that missing week?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: No, I hope we can do better than that. We'll probably try to do a special payday. Like I say, we're going to have to trick our computer systems, which are used to paying on the 15th and the 30th. But DFAS is already working that issue and believes they can. It will take -- can't do it the day they sign the law. It will take a few days. But I think we can do something special.
Q: On the issue that Chris talked about, your predecessor, (predecessor name deleted), said in 1995 that troops would be paid. He was saying this on the first day of that shutdown when they didn't know how long it would last, that troops would be paid on regular payday, but that it took a requirement -- or it took an appropriation by Congress to make that happen.
Has the Department of Defense lobbied Congress to pass that kind of appropriation this time so that if this goes some length of time, that troops will be paid? Or is that just not something that's happened?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I think what we want, and the department and the president wants, is an appropriation for DOD and the whole of government and not stopgap measures. So that's what we are pressing for.
Q: And do you know yet, if this shutdown occurs and lasts, say, more than a few days, what the cost of shutting down the non-excepted part of the --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I can't put a number on it. I mean, it's so hard. Obviously, it's consumed a lot of time, but I can't quantify it for you. It would be substantial, because there's just a lot of staff time that is taken away from other duties -- not an increased cost; the people are still there, but they aren't doing other things they would have done. But I can't put a number on it.
Q: For example, do you know how much that special paycheck you're talking about, that --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: That I could probably figure out, but I don't know.
Q: The last government shutdown in 1996 actually lasted for 21 days --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: '95. And only five days for us, though.
Q: Yeah -- no, I'm talking about the one that followed. That lasted 21 days. It did not include DOD, but it gets to the point you said earlier about how long is this going to last. How long can it last before it starts impacting these mission-essential activities you were talking about?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Well, I think it will disrupt routine activities virtually immediately and to some extent already has by virtue of all the time we had to spend doing it.
All I can say is that the longer it goes on, the more serious it will be. But we have these exceptions -- you say "mission essential." We can continue the operations I mentioned in Iraq, Afghanistan, Japan, Libya and other key national security initiatives indefinitely. I mean, we have authority to continue obligating money.
Now, we'll get more in issues -- if it went on a long time, we would get more into issues of whether contractors are going to be willing to sign contracts if we can't actually disburse the money.
Q: That also would cover these excepted activities? I mean, would -- it could impact them, right?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yes, it would begin -- I think it is fair to say if it -- if it lasts weeks, not days, it will have significantly more impact. I can't quantify that for you, but that is a fair statement.
Q: Got a contracts question specifically. You got the reprogramming approved a few -- a couple of weeks ago that allowed you to shift like $600 million from Humvees into ISR. Gates has talked about it. If those contracts are announced Monday or Tuesday of next week, those cannot be -- you couldn't obligate money to those? Those are going into Afghanistan.
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I think we could obligate the money because I think that would be an excepted activity. We wouldn't be able to pay for it because they would be obligated after the -- after the shutdown began.
I think -- does it sound right to you, (staffer name deleted)?
STAFF: That was prior-year money. That was prior-year money.
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Ah -- good point.
Q: Prior year money that was shifted. You could do it?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah, good point, (staffer name deleted). Yeah, so that wouldn't be an issue.
Q: That wouldn't be an issue. OK, thanks.
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Thank you.
Q: Just one thing you said confused me. You said if there's an existing contract, you can continue to pay it. But that doesn't apply to military personnel or civilian personnel? Isn't that essentially a contract that you have with them?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah, that's a good question. It's because we obligate the money, and we have to obligate the money, at the time the pay has been earned. So that it's not obligated now, and it can't be until they've actually done the work. So we obligate it and we -- and we can make the obligation, but that would be after the shutdown and, under this set of rules, we can't disburse the money based on obligations after the shutdown. That make sense? Sort of?
Q: I guess not if you're missing your paycheck. (Laughter.)
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Well, I'm not saying it is a good idea, just does it --
Q: Can you just clarify on the numbers of civilians? I thought you said 400,000 would be furloughed, and that would be about half. But I thought the total was 600,000. Maybe I'm wrong?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: No, we have around 800,000 civilians in the Department of Defense. And I think it'd be roughly half that would be furloughed.
Q: OK. Thank you.
Q: Yes. You just mentioned about nonpayment and payment, but what about the worker schedule? The civilians here will not be working. What about the soldiers and the civilians out, abroad in these missions? Who will be working, who will not be working?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Well, we'll direct all of our military personnel to remain at work. Many of them are involved in these excepted activities and they have a different kind of contract, so we really can't furlough them.
In terms of the civilians, it would be only the ones who are directly in support of these excepted activities, like Afghanistan -- and you've heard me say them before. And that's going to vary by the mission and where they are.
Now, I'm not -- I don't know if I'm answering your question.
Q: No, because here, once the shutdown starts, the civilians will be -- it will be illegal to work, unlawful to work. And so what happens in these missions?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Well, the ones that are on furlough, they are associated with the non-excepted activities, the support activities that aren't in direct support of the wars, for example. They would be furloughed. And you're right, it is illegal for them to work. They can't volunteer to work; they can't telework; they can't work at home.
We will just stop doing those routine activities. I mean, we won't do policy and budget planning. We won't do routine updates of or maintenance on our bases. We'll cancel routine training. All of these things are disruptive, but we will have to do that.
Q: And just to follow up, on the payment for, you said the contractor payments also will be stopped. How many days of fuel and supplies do we have at these advanced bases and -- (inaudible)?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Well, for much of the fuel, it would be probably in support of excepted activities, because probably they're wartime related or training for war. And so we could continue signing contracts to buy the fuel. And just the ones signed after the shutdown occurs we couldn't pay until we get an appropriation. Probably the same with food: For routine supplies, they'll either -- will either kind of wait to get paid until we get an appropriation, or if they don't feel comfortable with that, then I guess they'll stop providing us the goods.
Q: Are you talking to any of the other NATO members or allies to, you know, get some fuel or something in -- what is the backup plan?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I think, you know, we have some stocks of fuel. I mean, it just depends how long this lasts. If you told me it's going to last months, then we'd have to -- we'd have a real problem. But if it is of relatively short duration, I think we'll be okay on things like fuel. We have stocks, obviously.
Q: To what degree do you think stress put on the warfighters who don't know if they're going to be able to make their mortgage payments on time, et cetera, will affect their ability to do their job well?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah, I don't know that I can speculate on that. I mean, I'm hopeful that most of them -- I've certainly gone to our senior leaders and say this is my problem, not your problem. I mean, if I'm interfering with the wartime activity, you call me and I will do everything I can to avoid it. I'm hopeful they'll ignore this. But I can't speculate.
Q: Could you explain the issue that you're trying to determine in regards to commissaries, and also if there are any other activities that, you know, you still don't have an answer for how --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Well, you know, we've got these broad provisions, exceptions to the Anti-Deficiency Act for the safety of life and the protection of property, so we have to make a judgment about what constitutes safety of life. In commissaries case, I mean, I'm pretty sure that we will accept the ones in Japan because of the specific circumstances there. Harder call for some of the stateside ones. And these are just judgments we'll have to make.
Q: Just a point of clarification on the employees. What about the contractors, who I guess wouldn't be necessarily considered civilian employees, aren’t there are a number of people who are working at the bases and even in this building who are contractors. Are they all -- how many are there? And then, are you going through the same process with them about excepted, non-excepted?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: You sound like Congress. I'm not sure -- I don't have a quick number for you on the number. It's hard to know, because many of them are fixed-price contracts, but in terms of the rules -- again, this is all about rules and the law now. If the contract to employ a person at a base was signed and funded before this shutdown occurs, they can continue working and we could actually pay them for as long as that money for that funded contract continues. At the point it runs out or we need a new contract, then it can only be for an excepted activity. Many of our contracts will be funded.
The issue, I think, will be whether or not there's supervision available and the contractor can maybe work on their own for a while or we've got enough federal employees available for excepted activities to supervise that contract. If that's not true, then we'll have to work with the contracting officer about suspending performance. But in many cases for a short period we will probably be able to go on with a number of these contracts.
Q: Getting back to the commissaries -- perishables, milk, fruit and vegetables, if this goes on for a long time, would you give them away, just throw them out?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah, I don't know.
Q: Is that part of your decision-making?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Certainly not mine personally. I think DeCA, the Defense Commissary Agency, has raised that -- we have a concept of orderly shutdown here. We will ask most of our employees to come in on Monday, or on the first duty day if it's the weekend, to sign furlough notices, shut down their computers. For some places like DeCA, they many need some more time to do just what you said, to stop orders from coming if we decide to close them, and maybe handle perishables. But I don't know how they'll do it.
Q: And also, Arlington Cemetery.
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: My understanding, they'll continue funerals, that they'll view those as excepted.
Q: We were asking yesterday about bands.
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: About what, sir?
Q: Military bands.
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Banks?
Q: Bands. Bands. Music.
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Bands.
Q: Will they continue to play or will they be assigned other duties?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: They'll -- I mean, they're military for the -- almost all, so they would be reporting to work. I believe the decision will be that they will not perform on a routine basis. I mean, we're going to have to work through this. They will probably use them in other tasks.
Q: They will probably use them in other tasks?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I believe we will.
Q: Would they be tasks that the furloughed civilians would otherwise --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Possibly yes. I mean it could be, where they can do it, supervision of contracts, maybe assistance in tasks that would have otherwise been done by furloughed civilians. But I mean those details I'm not going to decide. They'll be decided by our commanders in the field. We'll try to provide some consistent framework for making those decisions. And we're meeting regularly to try to achieve some consistency across a huge department.
STAFF: All right. Chris, Larry, Tony, and then we'll wrap it up.
Q: I just want a quick clarification. You said that if it only lasts a day or two, there's a possibility to sort of catch up by next Friday's pay date. Did you mean -- were you counting a day or two as Saturday/Sunday, or starting, like, Monday/Tuesday?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I think that if we got an enacted bill by April 12th, which is Tuesday -- 9, 10 -- Tuesday, we could make the Friday payday in its completion. If we don't, I mean DFAS will do everything they can, but there is a point at which we've got to get it right as well as out. But if we can't make that payday, then we will try to immediately move toward a special one to catch up.
Q: Okay. So perhaps that -- the Friday that follows in between the 15th --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yeah, might even be able to do it sooner. We'll do it just as soon as we can. I mean, they'll work the weekend. They're talking a few days to catch up.
Q: Question about military precision drill teams that do performances -- Black Knights, Thunderbirds, the Blue Angels -- will they be allowed to perform? They're all military, so they --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Right.
Q: -- have to report to work, but will they be allowed to perform?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I think like the bands, we will probably stand down routine performances and use them in other functions.
Q: What about service academy intercollegiate activity, intercollegiate athletic activities or other intercollegiate activities that require those cadets and midshipmen to travel? Will they continue on even if they --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I think we probably will also cancel those. Some of them are paid for with non-appropriated funds. And I hope you will accept that not every one of these decisions had been made. I mean, we were hoping this wouldn't happen, and we still hope it won't happen. So we've had to pick up the planning aggressively in the past few days, and not every decision is made. But I believe that we will not pursue intercollegiate athletics.
On the other hand, physical education training, intramurals, that kind of thing, at the academies and -- we probably will continue, I mean, just as -- because it's physical training.
STAFF: All right. Last one.
Q: On the vets benefit issue, do you have a list of civilian aid groups you're going to be contacting in the next day or two if in fact a shutdown occurs? And --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: (Off mic) –places like the Air Force Aid Society probably -- I mean, those groups that --
Q: The Air Force Aid --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I don't have -- I don't have a specific list, but there's -- each service has one that they depend on a lot. And we'll probably go to them first.
Q: Is that versus a USO or a --
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I would think we'd go first to the aid societies. That -- I mean, we'll take the help where we can get it at this point. But I think that would be the first preference.
STAFF: Okay. Now we'll end –
Q: You mentioned about, you know, people who might miss mortgage payments. And I know they're protected from foreclosures, but does that also protect their credit rating?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I don't know. My guess is no, but I don't know for sure. We'll do what we can to be helpful. We did in '95. And, you know, Americans are good people, and they're thoughtful, and they recognize these are tough times. And I remember in '95, some of the credit agencies and the banks tried to be helpful in cutting the federal employees a little slack. If this happens -- and still, again, I hope it doesn't -- if it does, then we would hope they might step up and do the same thing.
Q: And can you tell us to what degree the secretary has been involved in this planning, especially since he's on an overseas trip?
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: He has always -- Secretary Gates keeps involved. He is out of town right now. The deputy's been more involved in the day to day, but I can assure you that he is following this closely.
STAFF: All right, thanks, guys.
SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Thank you.
Q: Thank you.