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Coast Guard becomes first Armed Force in history to go without pay during shutdown

Nearly 42,000 active duty USCG members informed Tuesday they won't receive paychecks
Credit: RHONA WISE
A Coast Guard vessel patrols in the Miami harbor entrance known as Government Cut in Miami, Florida June 2, 2018. (Photo by RHONA WISE / AFP) (Photo credit should read RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — The nearly 42,000 active duty members of the U.S. Coast Guard learned they would not be receiving their regularly scheduled paychecks Tuesday – the first time in American history that servicemembers in a U.S. Armed Force have not been paid during a government shutdown, according to Admiral Karl Schultz.

Tuesday marked day 25 of the government shutdown, now the longest in U.S. history, sparked by President Donald Trump’s refusal to sign a spending bill that does not include $5.7 billion to construct a wall on the nation’s southern border.

The wall was Trump’s signature campaign promise, but he failed to secure funding for it during the first two years of his administration while his party controlled both chambers of Congress.

A bill that would have funded the government through Feb. 8 passed by a large margin in the Republican-controlled House and unanimously in the Republican-controlled Senate on Dec. 18, but was subsequently rejected by Trump. Despite a flurry of negotiations, Republicans failed to pass a spending bill while they retained control of the House. Democrats, who took over the House this month, have said they will not support a bill that includes money for the wall, but have offered money for other border security measures.

The breadth of the shutdown has expanded as federal funding has expired across the country. On Friday, 800,000 federal workers missed their first paychecks – although many deemed critical have been expected to work without pay. Federal contractors, and private-sector employees like taxi drivers who rely on federal workers for their living, have warned that their livelihoods are at stake. Unlike government employees, who have received backpay after previous shutdowns have been resolved, contractors and those in the private sector will likely have to eat their losses.

READ MORE | FBI funds dwindle, as agents confront potential shutdown ‘sick-out’ | Air traffic controllers warn of slowed flights during shutdown | Government contractors tackle life without pay during partial shutdown

The shutdown’s reach grew further Tuesday, when active duty members of the U.S Coast Guard (USCG) were added to the list of government employees expected to work without pay.

In a statement to his servicemembers, Admiral Karl L. Schultz, the commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, informed them that they would be joining the USCG’s roughly 30,000 civilian employees in going without pay until the shutdown continues.

To the Men and Women of the United States Coast Guard,

Today you will not be receiving your regularly scheduled mid-month paycheck. To the best of my knowledge, this marks the first time in our Nation’s history that servicemembers in a U.S. Armed Force have not been paid during a lapse in government appropriations.

Your senior leadership, including Secretary Nielsen, remains fully engaged and we will maintain a steady flow of communications to keep you updated on developments.

I recognize the anxiety and uncertainty this situation places on you and your family, and we are working closely with service organizations on your behalf. To this end, I am encouraged to share that Coast Guard Mutual Assistance (CGMA) has received a $15 million donation from USAA to support our people in need. In partnership with CGMA, the American Red Cross will assist in the distribution of these funds to our military and civilian workforce requiring assistance.

I am grateful for the outpouring of support across the country, particularly in local communities, for our men and women. It is a direct reflection of the American public’s sentiment towards their United States Coast Guard; they recognize the sacrifice that you and your family make in service to your country.

It is also not lost on me that our dedicated civilians are already adjusting to a missed paycheck—we are confronting this challenge together.

The strength of our Service has, and always will be, our people. You have proven time and again the ability to rise above adversity. Stay the course, stand the watch, and serve with pride. You are not, and will not, be forgotten.

Semper Paratus,

Admiral Karl L. Schultz
Commandant

Like U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the USCG falls under the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security. Unlike the Department of Defense – whose current appropriations bill runs through September – funding for Homeland Security lapsed in December when a continuing resolution wasn’t approved.

The Border Patrol is responsible for the nearly 4,000 miles of the U.S.-Canadian border and the roughly 2,000 miles of the U.S.-Mexican border, along with an additional 2,00 miles of coastal waters around Florida and Puerto Rico.

The USCG patrols approximately 3.4 million square miles of territory in the U.S. and internationally, including monitoring the presence of icebergs in the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans through the International Ice Patrol. The Coast Guard’s missions also include container and vessel inspections, interdiction of undocumented migrants and the screening of approximately 29.5 million maritime crew members and passengers a year.

The Coast Guard operates 11 bases in the Maryland-District of Columbia-Virginia area, including Coast Guard Headquarters and the National Response Center in D.C. and the Telecom Systems Command in Alexandria, Virginia, which oversees “all the informational and computerized systems” of the USCG.

If you are a member of the U.S. Coast Guard who needs financial assistance during the government shutdown, more information about programs available to you may be found here.

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If you’re a member of the U.S. Coast Guard who is being financially impacted by the shutdown, we'd like to hear from you. Please email Jordan Fischer and put "Coast Guard" in the subject line.

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