By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Sunday, U.S. Senator Doug Jones, D-Alabama, called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to hold a vote on a measure to ensure U.S. military service members will continue to be paid during the federal government shutdown.
“Around the world and here at home, our military and their families continue to serve during this shutdown,” Jones said. “Senator McConnell pledged that we would vote on a measure to guarantee that they will continue to get paid, but two days later he still hasn’t kept his promise to hold a vote. I co-sponsored this measure immediately after the shutdown took effect early Saturday morning because our troops don’t deserve to become a pawn in this political game. I am calling on the Majority Leader to bring this bill to an immediate vote in the Senate so we can provide certainty to those brave men and women who continue to sacrifice on our behalf.”
The measure, co-sponsored by Jones, was introduced by U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, shortly after midnight on Friday night, but was immediately blocked by Majority Leader McConnell.
Active duty military are still at their stations and the U.S. Navy’s ships have not returned to port, despite the government shutdown; however, the military will not get paid until the Congress appropriates the money to allow the service to pay their people.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis wrote in a statement to U.S. military personnel, “We in the Department of Defense will continue carrying out our fundamental responsibility to defend our Nation and the American people. We will continue to execute daily operations around the world – ships and submarines will remain at sea, our aircraft will continue to fly, and our warfighters will continue to pursue terrorists throughout the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia. While training for reservists must be curtailed, active force will remain at their posts adapting their training to achieve the least negative impact on our readiness to fight.”
It remains in question whether the military will get paid on time or not.
“I recognize the consequences of a government shutdown. You have my personal commitment that the Department’s leadership will do our best to mitigate the impacts of the disruption and any financial burdens to you and your family,” Secretary Mattis said.
Due to the government shutdown, the operating hours and status may vary at the local installation level, officials said in a statement.
“We are working with each of the military services to keep as many doors open as possible during the government shutdown,” Julie Blanks, the acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy, said. “We will be operating within the fiscal guidance passed down from senior Defense Department leadership.”
The Department of Defense provided some guidance to service members.
The Military OneSource website and call center will remain fully operational. Military OneSource is a Defense Department-wide program that promotes the quality of life of service members and their families by delivering information, referrals, confidential counseling and other services in person, online and by telephone. The service is available worldwide 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at no cost to the user and regardless of the service member’s activation status. Visit their website or call 800-342-9647.
Child Development Centers may be affected. Service people were told to contact their local CDC or installation for details and guidance.
DODEA schools and district offices worldwide will remain open. Headquarters and regional offices will be affected by the shutdown.
The Military and Family Life Counseling program will continue uninterrupted. The MFLCs will perform routine functions. If an MFLC is unable to access the installation during a shutdown, officials said, they will work offsite until they are able to access the installation.
Military exchanges will be open worldwide.
Overseas commissaries will remain open, including two stores in Guam and one in Puerto Rico. Commissaries in five remote stateside locations also will remain open: Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center Bridgeport and Fort Irwin in California; Coast Guard Station Kodiak and Fort Greely in Alaska; and Dugway Proving Ground, Utah. The remainder of stateside commissaries will follow an orderly shutdown to reduce the amount of perishables on hand and properly safeguard equipment and facilities.
Family Support Centers: Staffing will be determined by installation commanders.
Family Advocacy Program: Each service will determine staffing at each installation.
WR: Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs, nonappropriated fund activities and other operations necessary to support those activities not affected by a shutdown will continue. Examples of these excepted activities are operation of dining facilities, physical training and child care activities required to support readiness.
My Career Advancement Accounts: Financial assistance requests will be continue to be approved. In addition, Spouse Education and Career Opportunities career coaches will continue to be available to provide comprehensive education and career counseling services.
The U.S. Air Force Academy cancelled all sporting events, including Saturday’s men’s basketball game, men’s and women’s swimming, men’s ice hockey and men’s gymnastics. The women’s basketball team was set to play at Fresno State; that game also was canceled.
Jones was sworn in as a U.S. senator earlier this month.