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Shutdown cancels top officers' public appearances

Oct. 15, 2013 - 12:08PM   |  
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Don’t expect to hear much from the military’s top brass until the government shutdown ends.

Top Defense Department officials are declining to make public appearances at non-governmental events because most of them are considered non-essential activities.

Most civilian public affairs staffers remain on furlough despite the order last week for the vast majority of Defense Department employees to return to work because Pentagon lawyers decided they were not essential to military activates.

“Public affairs is not an excepted activity,” said one Pentagon official, referring to the term the Defense Department uses to identify activities as essential to national security and authorized to continue despite the government shutdown that began Oct. 1.

All travel money for non-essential activity is temporarily suspended.

“The government is shut down, so it’s not business as usual,” the official said.

For example, the GEOINT 2013, a conference of intelligence and homeland security professionals slated for this week, was postponed until the spring.

The Military Reporters and Editors, a nationwide group of reporters, canceled an annual conference scheduled for Oct. 17 and 18. “We’ve heard from several of our DoD speakers that they are unable to attend and speak as panelists while the shutdown is in effect,” the group said in a statement on its website.

The Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark Welsh, has canceled a meeting with the Defense Writers Group, an association of print reporters in Washington, that was scheduled for Wednesday.

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