Caught in shutdown, it still must operate regardless

(Jan. 11, 2019) As the partial government shutdown grows closer to becoming one of the longest in U.S. history, Ocean City Coast Guard personnel continue to work without knowing if they will be paid next week.

The Coast Guard is the only branch of the United States military not getting paid because of the partial shutdown. Coast Guard service members are paid every two weeks, with the next paycheck scheduled for Jan. 15.

That means that while approximately 42,000 active-duty, reservist and civilian personnel continue to work to ensure the maritime safety, security and stewardship of the nation, they are not getting paid for it, according to the website, Homeland Security Today.

“We don’t know yet if we’re going to get a paycheck on the 15th,” said Master Chief Nathan Beach, the officer in charge of Coast Guard Station Ocean City.

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Operations will continue regardless of a paycheck on the 15th.

The Coast Guard did get paid at the end of December despite the shutdown having begun on Dec. 22, by reshuffling money already in the service’s budget. But with that spent, the Coast Guard’s next payroll depends on whether the shutdown is ended or if congressional efforts to protect the Coast Guard from shutdowns succeeds.

Other military services are paid through the Department of Defense, which is unaffected by the stymied budget bill. But the Coast Guard operates under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security, which does not have the same protection.

Nevertheless, this is not expected to impact the Coast Guard’s ability to complete its tasks, Beach said.

“From a search and rescue standpoint, it’s not affecting us at all,” Beach said. “We’re still maintaining the same response posture as if things were totally normal.”

However, some duties that could be affected, not just in Ocean City but every Coast Guard station, include training, recreational boardings and safety checks, issuing license renewals and other merchant documentation, fisheries enforcement patrols and routine equipment maintenance.

Efforts to spare the Coast Guard from the current budget situation have been made by the U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers Association, the Coast Guard Enlisted Association and the Sea Service Family Foundation, which generated 141,015 letters to every member of Congress, asking for the reintroduction of the Pay Our Coast Guard Act, Homeland Security Today said.

The bill, which was initially introduced in 2015 by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) but never made it to the floor for a vote, was reintroduced last Thursday, the first day of the 116th Congress. It ensures continued funding for the Coast Guard even if appropriations lapse due to congressional inaction.

If the measure passes and funding is approved, all Coast Guard military and civilian employees are expected to receive their back pay within three-to-five days.

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