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With Government Shutdown, Troops Still Protect Nation, But Possibly Without Pay

With a possible government shutdown less than a week away, defense leaders say the nation will remain protected. But service members may end up doing that defense work without being paid. Elsewhere, training operations could be curtailed, which will affect long-term readiness. Efforts to support Ukraine may also be hampered.

"A shutdown ... puts the government on a complete standstill," said Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh during a discussion today with the Pentagon press corps. "[But] the U.S. military is going to continue to do its job and protect our national security interests and ... those of our allies and partners as well." 

Tanks operate on a grassy field.
Tank Training
Soldiers participate in routine training operations at Fort Carson, Colo., Aug. 25, 2023. Pentagon officials have said during a government shutdown, training operations may be curtailed, but the nation will still be defended.
Photo By: Army Spc. Dominique Mendoza
VIRIN: 230815-A-ED085-1003A

While the nation will remain safe, there will be challenges to the young service members who provide that security, to their families, and to the long-term readiness that comes from the training that keeps them combat ready, Singh said. 

"A shutdown would be detrimental for the department," she said. "Troops would go without pay. Military families would be impacted, of course. For folks that are not getting paychecks, that impacts how and when [they] can buy groceries, child care, all of these things. … So, we are still ... we're hoping that Congress can reach a deal to avert a shutdown. But we are planning for that or taking steps to plan for that, should a shutdown occur."

While commissaries will be closed on most bases in the continental U.S., defense officials said they will remain open overseas and in certain remote U.S. locations where no other sources of food are reasonably available for military personnel.

While national security will be maintained during a shutdown, Singh said, readiness will suffer as the training operations that keep service members sharp are curtailed. 

"When you don't have your full operating capacity, to be able to help with a mission, to be able to conduct an exercise or training, of course, that gets to our national security and readiness," she said. 

In Europe, efforts under "Operation Atlantic Resolve" provide increased troop rotations and equipment to the European theater to help maintain security there. Pentagon officials have said they expect to be able to maintain much of that effort through a government shutdown. But there will still be some effects felt, Singh said. 

"Things could be delayed when it comes to training," she said. "If any of our personnel are furloughed ... that could have impacts to the larger mission." 

When it comes to supporting Ukraine, Singh said already approved funding means the U.S. could still offer more equipment and support as needed. But a government shutdown could affect the department's ability to actually draw down that equipment from stocks and get it to Ukraine. 

"I don't know how this impacts how we roll out additional [presidential drawdown authority packages] with a government shutdown," she said. "It doesn't affect the funds that we have accessible to us, but like how, how we continue to do that — I just don't have more on that." 

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