U.S. Navy, Coast Guard Prepare for Government Shutdown


By The Maritime Executive 01-19-2018 07:44:00

As of Friday evening, the U.S. Congress has not yet passed a resolution to continue funding the federal government's operations, and authorization for expenditures is set to run out at the day's end. While senior leaders hope that Congress and the White House will be able to negotiate a stop-gap agreement, the U.S. Department of Defense is preparing the Navy and the rest of the nation's armed forces for the event of a (partial) government shutdown. 

"The administration is willing to work with the Congress to enact a short-term continuing resolution to fund critical federal government operations and allow Congress the time to complete the full-year 2018 appropriations," said Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan in a memo to the service branches. While optimistic, he noted that "prudent management requires that the department be prepared for the possibility of a lapse in appropriations."

In the event of a shutdown, all war operations will continue unimpeded, along with other operations necessary for the "safety of human life or the protection of property." In the list of "excepted" activities, it is clear that a large portion of the military's basic functions will remain in place, from base security to logistics to accounting to litigation. All active-duty members of the armed forces will remain on normal duty status, even if they are affiliated with functions that shut down. However, they will not be paid until Congress appropriates funds. Civilian employees who work on tasks affected by the shutdown will be furloughed without pay. 

For vendors, defense contracts that are fully funded and under way will continue. New contracts, contract increments or cost overruns, though, cannot be signed or paid. In some circumstances, if a contract's performance requires oversight or resources that are not available due to the shutdown, it may be shut down or terminated. 

Shanahan cautioned that his memo is purely for planning and guidance purposes at this stage, and he emphasized that the Secretary of Defense has hope that the government will enact another continuing resolution (CR) to fund operations. A CR would minimize interruptions while Congress continues its negotiations on a full-year budget.

In an interview earlier this month, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft suggested that a shutdown could be difficult as his service works to modernize its fleet. “We are prepared if [a CR] is the contingency,” Zukunft said. “We are not prepared for a government shutdown."