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Government shutdown 101: What does it mean for the military?

The Pentagon will continue military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, but US troops will work without pay, according to guidance issued late Thursday by the Defense Department.

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A US Army soldier mans a rooftop lookout post at Strongpoint Lugo in the village of Charqolba Olya in the Arghandab Valley north of Kandahar, Afghanistan, on April 8. The threat that US troops might not receive their full paychecks during a government shutdown has rattled military families, as getting paychecks to them continues to be a key part of the political fight.

Bob Strong/Reuters

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While the Pentagon will continue to prosecute the war in Afghanistan in the event of a government shutdown, US troops will work without pay, according to a new guidance issued late Thursday by the Department of Defense.

“All military personnel will continue in a normal duty status regardless of their affiliation with excepted or non-excepted activities,” reads the memo. Yet, it adds, “military personnel will serve without pay until such time as Congress makes appropriated funds available to compensate them for this period of service.”

Civilians working for the military in essential activities also will not be paid. DOD civilians “not engaged in excepted activities” will be furloughed.

The guidance is the first step in the Pentagon’s efforts “to begin detailed planning,” according to the memo, which was sent to the secretaries of the military departments and to DOD field offices.

The Pentagon will continue its NATO operations in Libya and its humanitarian relief work in Japan. It will also continue to prepare and train US troops who are headed to war in Afghanistan. Operations in Iraq will also go on.

“The Department must, as well, continue many other operations necessary for the safety of human life and protection of property including operations essential for the security of our nation,” reads the guidance. “These activities will be ‘excepted’ from cessation.”

Yet there will be closures throughout the DOD as well. In fact, says the memo, “all other activities would need to be shut down in an orderly and deliberate fashion, including – with few exceptions – the cessation of temporary duty travel” for troops on temporary assignment.

Responsibility for determining which functions and jobs “will be excepted from shut down” resides with the Joint Chiefs and the secretaries of the services, “who may delegate this authority as they deem appropriate.”

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US troops on active duty may also be assigned to carry out nonessential activities, in the place of furloughed civilian personnel, according to the guidance. Reservists on active guard duty will report for work.

Some DOD contractors will also be affected by a shutdown. “No funds will be available to pay such new contractors until Congress appropriates additional funds,” according to the memo.

The only exceptions will happen in the event “where delay in contracting would endanger national security or create a risk to human life or property.”

Civilian military intelligence specialists are not considered essential in a number of cases – specifically those involved in “technical intelligence information collection” not in direct support of the military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, or Libya. This includes “general political and economic intelligence,” according to the memo.

Employees with responsibility for “environmental requirements which are not necessary to prevent imminent threat to life or property” also will not need to report for work.

The memo notes that “surgery to continue recovery of function/appearance of wounded warriors” will continue. But family members will not be able to have elective surgery.

Also, while military children will be able to finish out the school year, no summer school will be held, should a shutdown continue into June. Summer school is not considered an essential activity, according to the memo – a negative for parents, perhaps, but a potential cause for celebration among students in the midst of a budget crisis.

Government shutdown 101:

Introduction: What would a shutdown mean for you?

Part 1: What does it mean for veterans?

Part 2: Will I still have to file my taxes?

Part 3: Will Social Security and Medicare be affected?

Part 4: What does it mean for the military?

Part 5: What does it mean for homeland security?

Part 6: What does it mean for Medicaid?

Part 7: How will it affect unemployment insurance?

Part 8: What does it mean for welfare and food stamps?

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