Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel confirmed yesterday that grieving families of war dead are not receiving the traditional payout from the Pentagon during the shutdown.
Yesterday, Hagel convened a meeting with the service secretaries and service chiefs the impact of the government shutdown and the end of furloughs for most civilian employees despite no end to the budget standoff in sight.
“DoD and DOJ attorneys concluded that the law does allow the Department of Defense to eliminate furloughs for employees whose responsibilities contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities and readiness of service members. I am now directing the Military Departments and other DoD components to move expeditiously to identify all employees whose activities fall under these categories. I expect us to be able to significantly reduce – but not eliminate – civilian furloughs under this process. Employees can expect to hear more information from their managers starting this weekend,” Hagel said in a statement over the weekend.
“We have tried to exempt as many DoD civilian personnel as possible from furloughs. We will continue to try to bring all civilian employees back to work as soon as possible. Ultimately, the surest way to end these damaging and irresponsible furloughs, and to enable us to fulfill our mission as a Department, is for Congress to pass a budget and restore funds for the entire federal government.”
In a readout from yesterday’s meeting, the Defense Department noted “that despite the recall of most civilians, and the resumption of many activities across the Department of Defense, there are critical programs and benefits that remain halted.”
“For example, the department does not currently have the authority to pay death gratuities for the survivors of service members killed in action – typically a cash payment of $100,000 paid within three days of the death of a service member,” it continued. “In addition, emergency funding that supports commanders on the ground and intelligence activities remains unavailable. Service leaders also reported that because of the shutdown, they are curtailing training for later deploying units – an activity that has already been reduced due to sequestration.”
“Secretary Hagel assured the service leaders that he would work closely with them to address these challenges, and support the service members and families impacted by these disruptions. He expressed his continued concern for the morale and welfare of DoD’s civilian employees, who have endured unprecedented uncertainty this year and suffered losses in pay.”
Since the shutdown began, the Pentagon has identified five casualties in Operation Enduring Freedom.
Lance Cpl. Jeremiah M. Collins, Jr., 19, of Milwaukee died Saturday while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C. The circumstances around his death are under investigation.
On Sunday, four Army soldiers were killed in Zhari District, Afghanistan, when enemy forces attacked their unit with an improvised explosive device.
They were 1st Lt. Jennifer M. Moreno, 25, of San Diego, Calif., assigned to Madigan Army Medical Center, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.; Sgt. Patrick C. Hawkins, 25, of Carlisle, Pa., assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Benning, Ga.; Sgt. Joseph M. Peters, 24, of Springfield, Mo., assigned to the 5th Military Police Battalion, Vicenza, Italy; and Pfc. Cody J. Patterson, 24, of Philomath, Ore., assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, at Fort Benning, Ga.