Service Members May Face No Pay, Closed Commissaries if Government Shuts Down

About 5,000 sailors and Marines return after a seven-month deployment. Photo by Chris Stone
Sailors and Marines return to San Diego from a deployment. File photo by Chris Stone

As a Republican-forced government shutdown looms on Sunday, the Defense Department is warning that troops may have to serve without pay.

“Troops would go without pay. Military families would be impacted, of course. For folks that are not getting paychecks, that impacts how and when they can buy groceries, child care, all of these things. Commissaries would be closed on bases,” said Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh.

But she promised that despite the hardship, the military will continue to defend the country.

“The U.S. military is going to continue to do its job and protect our national security interests and … those of our allies and partners as well,” she said.

Members of the right-wing Freedom Caucus in Congress have refused to sign spending bills without deep overall cuts. Last week caucus members voted against an $826 billion Defense Bill, with caucus Chair Scott Perry of Pennsylvania warning “it leads to increases in spending that is crippling our citizens.”

In past shutdowns, Congress has found a way to keep troops paid, and Rep. Jen Kiggans representing areas around Norfolk has introduced a bill to do so this time. But it hasn’t yet passed.

In any event, civilian Pentagon employees would not be paid during a shutdown.

“We’re hoping that Congress can reach a deal to avert a shutdown,” said Singh. “But we are planning for that.”