WASHINGTON – Pentagon officials are working out the details on a plan in case the government shuts down over a budget deal impasse or passes a stop-gap spending bill to avert it.
"Any time we get close to the end of a continuing resolution, we automatically go through and update our contingency plans" in case Congress fails to pass a budget and the government partly shuts down, Pentagon comptroller David Norquist told reporters Wednesday.
Top leaders from both parties plan to meet at the White House later Thursday to try to avert a shutdown, or agree on a two-week interim funding measure called a "continuing resolution."
Both would be bad for the military, Norquist warned, noting that "no one gets paid" in the event of a full shutdown.
"The civilians who report to duty do not get paid; the military who are in theater do not get paid," he told reporters.
Without a larger deal to raise the cap, the $700 billion National Defense Authorization Act that was passed last month – and which includes money for more aircraft, ships and troops – could be slashed.
Both the Pentagon and the defense industry were applying pressure on Congress as the clock ticks toward the expiration of the current budget measure Friday night.
Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, said, "Continuing resolutions immediately disrupt training, impede readiness recovery, delay maintenance, impose uncertainty on the workforce and induce inefficient and constrained contracting practices." But the chances of Congress passing defense appropriations by Friday is nearly zero.
In 2013, a similar spending feud caused 850,000 government officials to be sent home temporarily.
Norquist said Defense Department personnel "earn the rights" to being paid, but their money would only come after a shutdown had ended.
A shutdown would also result in death benefits to relatives of troops killed in the line of duty being paused.
As for a continuing resolution, Norquist said that has knock-on effects for the military and potentially for commanders across America's many zones of conflict.