War on Terrorism

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Shutdown Could Affect Young Troops Most, Gates Says

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, April 7, 2011 – While emphasizing that service members eventually will receive the pay they would earn during a government shutdown, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates acknowledged here today that if the government shuts down for a week starting tomorrow, their mid-month paychecks would include only the pay they earned for the first week of the month.

During a visit with U.S. Division Center soldiers at Camp Liberty, the first question posed to the secretary concerned the possibility of a government shutdown and the effect it would have on service members’ pay.

“Over time, they won’t lose anything,” the secretary told reporters after the visit. “But you all know as well as I do that a lot of these young troops live pretty much paycheck to paycheck, and when I start to think about the inconvenience that it’s going to cause these kids and a lot of their families, even half a paycheck delayed can be a problem for them.

“So I hope they work this whole thing out,” he added.

Shouts of “Hooah!” rang out among the 175 soldiers gathered for the secretary’s visit when Gates began his answer to a question about the possible shutdown by saying, “First of all, let me say you will be paid.”

Gates joked that as a historian, it always has occurred to him that “a smart thing for government is always to pay the guys with the guns first.” But he then explained how the shutdown would affect the soldiers’ pay.

“Based on some stuff I read this morning, if the government shutdown starts on the 8th and goes for a week, you’d get half a check,” he said. “If it goes from the 15th to the 30th, you wouldn’t get a paycheck on the 30th, but you would be back-paid for all of it [when the government resumes operations].”

Service members are paid on the first and the 15th day of each month.

Gates told the soldiers he knows that could present a tough situation for them.

“Frankly, I remember when I was your age, I did a lot of living from paycheck to paycheck,” he said, “and so I hope this thing doesn’t happen, because I know it’ll be an inconvenience for a lot of troops.”

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