This story was updated Sept. 14 at 11:48 a.m. to clarify Air Force Reserve boss Gen. John Healy’s comments on the potential effects of a continuing resolution.
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — A government shutdown would prove “miserable” for the Air Force Reserve, its three-star boss told reporters here Tuesday.
Lt. Gen. John Healy warned that a congressional failure to pass a fiscal 2024 budget could derail reserve operations. The looming uncertainty in the interim could dissuade reservists from joining upcoming missions and drills.
“That’s miserable for us,” Healy said at the Air and Space Forces Association’s annual Air, Space and Cyber Conference. “We’re prepping right now for the hopefully unfortunate and hopefully avoidable likelihood that there’s a shutdown.”
House and Senate leaders remain far apart on plans to extend the current government budget past Sept. 30, its deadline to authorize annual funding for the federal government’s 438 agencies — including the armed forces. Failure to do so could halt paychecks for military personnel unless lawmakers pass a separate bill extending compensation for service members.
Active duty personnel will still have to man their posts without pay even if no such extension is approved. Reservists, meanwhile, risk being furloughed en masse if no new spending bills pass both chambers of Congress before Oct. 1.
A three-day shutdown in 2018 upended training plans and scheduled paydays for around 170,000 Guardsmen and reservists across the Army and the Air Force.
“I stopped signing up for October,” Healy said of his old drill-registration habits. “I think I was a colonel before I finally figured it out.”
Healy noted that a stopgap measure to temporarily fund the government — a continuing resolution — can sow uncertainty among airmen about whether they will get paid or should show up for drills. The Reserve stressed that work would continue as usual under a CR.
”It’s unfortunate that reservists are now culturally expecting a CR,” Healy said.
A shutdown that stops funding altogether would hurt the force more deeply, he added.
Reserve commanders are prepping alternative training schedules to minimize the disruption of a shutdown, he added.
“If need be, we’ll modify the dates based on if it’s a short shutdown,” he said. “Hopefully, each unit will be able to modify and avoid the shutdown affecting our required operations.”
Military Times Deputy Editor Leo Shane III contributed to this story.
Jaime Moore-Carrillo is an editorial fellow for Military Times and Defense News. A Boston native, Jaime graduated with degrees in international affairs, history, and Arabic from Georgetown University, where he served as a senior editor for the school's student-run paper, The Hoya.