Congress has passed a bill to ensure active duty military are paid during the federal government shutdown, but what about the National Guard? There are direct impacts on the families of 5,000 Connecticut guard members who respond to both federal and state missions.
Colonel John Whitford, a spokesman for the Connecticut National Guard, said 540 soldiers and airmen were furloughed last week. Almost all have been called back to work, but that's not the case for another 200 contractors who work within the aviation maintenance group in Groton. "So the impact there, obviously," Whitford said, "[is] aircraft that need to be repaired and returned to duty are at a standstill. The 200-plus contractors are still questioning when they're coming back and when they would even get paid. And the 540 of us that are back are in accepted status, and it's a question of when we would get our paycheck."
Congress inaction also impacts the families of part-time National Guard. Colonel Whitford said that's because right now, there are no training dollars for the Guard to hold regular drill weekends. That's required training the Guard goes through to remain proficient in their jobs or specialties.
Whitford said one training has already been delayed, and another drill weekend coming up may have to be rescheduled. "The part time personnel aren't getting any kind of paycheck," he said, "and when they are coming to drill and performing their duty, they rely on a paycheck for a car payment, mortgage, or rent. When you take that away, that's very significant."
The Connecticut National Guard has been very active in the state in the past two years, responding to two major weather emergencies. Whitford said if that happens again, the Guard will still be able to respond rapidly, and get paid: state missions are funded through a separate pot of money. Either way, Whitford said this government shutdown is hard on morale. "Our servicemembers really deserve better," he said.
Full-time National Guard already dealt with an administrative furlough a few months ago. As Washington lawmakers continue to debate a solution, Whitford said there is a family support program and partner agencies that can help Guard families who run into financial or other issues.