The shutdown is over, but the effects will linger for the National Guard in the form of lost training in a major combat exercise despite Congress’ action to re-open the government — at least until Feb. 8.
About 20,000 reservists also lost training during the three-day shutdown that ended Monday with passage of yet another continuing resolution to put the government back in operation through Feb. 8, according to Mick Mulvaney, the White House director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Over the weekend, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis gave President Donald Trump “an update on about 90,000 National Guardsmen and 20,000 Army reservists who have had their training canceled because of the government shutdown,” Mulvaney said late Saturday.
Recovering the lost training will be difficult to arrange both for the Guard personnel and their civilian employers, said Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, chairman of the board of the National Guard Association of the U.S. (NGAUS).
Hoyer and retired Brig. Gen. Roy Robinson, NGAUS president, said in a joint statement that the shutdown’s impact “on National Guardsmen, their families and their employers will linger for weeks, if not months.”
“Guard leaders were forced to cancel training for more than 90,000 Guardsmen over the weekend. This includes a major combat exercise involving units from North Carolina, South Carolina and West Virginia that required six months of planning,” Hoyer and Robinson said.
“Soldiers were in their aircraft and vehicles ready to go when they were told to pack up and go home. A chance to enhance their readiness was lost, as well as two days’ pay,” they said.
“Training can be rescheduled, but it requires some complex choreography,” the joint statement said. “Training sites must be scheduled months in advance. Commanders have other plans for the months ahead. So do our families. And unlike in the active component, the needs of civilian employers must be considered.”
Hoyer and Robinson also echoed Mattis in calling on Congress to stop the uncertainty and finally pass a budget, which would include nearly $700 billion for the military.
The Senate voted 81-18 and the House voted 266-150 on Monday to end the three-day shutdown with a stopgap funding bill, called a continuing resolution (CR), which runs until Feb. 8.
President Donald Trump quickly signed the bill, and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she expected the government to be operating at “full capacity” Tuesday morning.
The CR, which will keep spending at 2017 levels, was the fourth passed by Congress since failing to pass a budget by the Oct. 1 start of fiscal 2018.
As Mattis has repeatedly pointed out, the military has been operating on CRs at one point or another for nine of the last 10 years.
The standoff between Republicans and Democrats that led to the three-day shutdown was framed by long-standing disputes over immigration reform that could threaten another shutdown when the current CR runs out Feb. 8.
At the center of the immigration dispute was the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for an estimated 800,000 so-called undocumented “Dreamers,” who were brought to the U.S. as minors. Trump rescinded the DACA program last year, and they could possibly face deportation in early March.
When asked if the Dreamers would be deported, Sanders said, “We’re hopeful that we don’t have to do that.”
In a statement Monday, Trump said: “As I have always said, once the government is funded, my administration will work toward solving the problem of very unfair illegal immigration. We will make a long-term deal on immigration if, and only if, it is good for our country.”
Trump and Republicans in Congress have also been demanding an end to chain migration and the visa lottery, as well as funding for the border wall that was a top priority of his campaign for the presidency.
In moving to end the shutdown, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said it was his “intention” to allow a vote on letting the Dreamers stay in the U.S., but it was unclear if there would be similar action in the House.
While the debates were being renewed, Sanders said the White House would favor moving to a two-year budget cycle for the military to avoid the impacts on readiness and planning from perennial rounds of CRs and shutdown threats.
In their joint statement, Hoyer and Robinson said, “If Congress won’t do this on an annual basis, it should move to a two-year defense budget cycle. Our ability to protect lives and property at home and defend our nation’s interests abroad in the years ahead may depend on it.”
In a statement, Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said he would settle for at least one year of guaranteed funding for the military.
“Ending the current shutdown does not solve the funding crisis for the military,” he said. “While our troops can be certain of one more paycheck before this temporary spending measure expires, Congress owes them much more than that.”
“Congress has an obligation to spend the next three weeks getting a full year of funding for our troops,” Thornberry said. “Our service in Congress must honor our troops’ service on the front lines.”
In response to written questions from Politico, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he backed Mattis’ National Defense Strategy citing China and Russia as the main challenges, but added that a strategy is only as good as the budget supporting it.
McCain, who is in Arizona battling brain cancer, said, “We need to reach a budget deal in Congress that provides the proper level of defense funding for FY2018 first and foremost. But we must also see that the administration’s budget request for FY2019 reflects this prioritization in everything from procurement and modernization to readiness restoration plans.”
— Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.
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