WASHINGTON — Most military members and veterans won’t face drastic consequences if the government partially shuts down at midnight tonight, but Coast Guard members could shoulder significant hardships in the days to come.
More than 43,000 Coast Guard employees — nearly 90 percent of the force — could be forced to work without pay for the duration of a shutdown, according to planning documents from the Department of Homeland Security released earlier this year.
A few thousand others would be furloughed until the federal budget fight is settled. Homeland Security and Office of Management and Budget officials have not detailed what impact those moves will have on current Coast Guard operations.
But White House officials in the previous government shutdown last January worked to minimize public disruptions from the political stalemate. Border security and coastal operations could continue on normal schedule, just without the individuals conducting the work being paid for their labor.
The shutdown, which is slated to begin at midnight, stems from fight over President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall which has stalled a series of unfinished agency budget bills. Funding for the Departments of Justice, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, State and Homeland Security will expire at the end of the day if an agreement isn’t reached.
Missing from that list are the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, because lawmakers finished work on those appropriations measures earlier this year.
That means that the partial government shutdown won’t impact troops’ pay, military family support programs and delivery of veterans benefits.
It’s good news for all service members except those in the Coast Guard, whose funding is handled through the Department of Homeland Security instead of the Department of Defense.
Federal employees who are required to work through a shutdown are typically given back pay by lawmakers after the disputes are settled. But in the case of a lengthy shutdown — many lawmakers are worried this impasse could last until the start of the next Congress, on Jan. 3 — that could mean missing multiple paychecks while still reporting for duty.
In the past, federal officials have said the Coast Guard’s maritime commerce and recreational boating activities would be disrupted by shutdowns, although it’s unclear if Trump administration officials have drafted separate plans to keep them operating as well.
Across the federal government, more than 800,000 federal workers would be affected by a shutdown, according to White House estimates.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.