Senator John Thune
Military service covers a wide range of duties and responsibilities throughout the branches of our Armed Forces. From operating and maintaining equipment, to defending our nation at home, to deploying forces abroad, each of these men and women—civilian, National Guard and Reserve, and active-duty military—are critical to sustaining our military readiness. Due to the important nature of their job, those who serve and defend our nation should not be forced to face the added anxiety of wondering how their pay will be affected by disagreements over spending in Washington.
On Monday, September 30th, President Obama signed the “Pay Our Military Act” to provide pay during a lapse in government funding for active-duty members of the Armed Forces. The legislation, which passed with unanimous support in the Senate, also provided the Secretary of Defense with the authority to pay civilian and contract employees who are engaged in supporting our Armed Forces. Unfortunately, despite enactment of this law, the Department of Defense (DoD) civilian personnel and full-time National Guard employees throughout the country were furloughed.
In response to these furloughs, I sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel calling for him to send these hard-working men and women back to work. My letter stressed that the legislation signed by the president granted authority to pay civilian and contract employees who are engaged in supporting our Armed Forces, including many of those who were recently furloughed at Ellsworth Air Force Base and South Dakota National Guard installations. I believe that Congress acted with clear intent to prevent the furlough of National Guard employees and civilian DoD personnel who support our Armed Forces, a position supported by the Adjutant General of the South Dakota National Guard, and am dismayed that the administration still chose to inappropriately furlough these men and women.
In addition to my letter, I also offered a unanimous consent agreement on the Senate floor to pass a bill to ensure National Guard and Reserve servicemen and women who are not on active-duty are able to train and receive compensation during this lapse in government funding. Unfortunately, Senate Democrats blocked funding for this bill along with three other common-sense funding bills to resume normal operations for several important government functions, including: veterans’ services, lifesaving medicine and treatment, and national parks and museums. I was disappointed that the Senate Democrat Majority Leader chose to play partisan politics rather than pass measures to fund these important services.I will continue to work to end this unnecessary partial government shutdown and put our DoD civilian personnel and National Guard servicemen and women back to work.