NAVAL STATION MAYPORT, Fla. – With a Saturday deadline looming for lawmakers to approve more federal spending to avert a government shutdown, crew members of the USS Carney are deploying Wednesday from Naval Station Mayport without any certainty about their coming paychecks.
The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer is scheduled for a six-month deployment to provide maritime security to the 5th and 6th Fleets area of operations.
About 300 sailors heading out Wednesday don’t have a guarantee that they’ll be paid because the looming shutdown would put pay for more than 1 million military members at risk.
Roughly 1.3 million active-duty troops, including over 170,000 stationed overseas, would be affected. Even during a government shutdown, military troops are still required to report for duty, but they won’t receive a paycheck until a new deal is reached.
“It has a huge impact on families,” Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said. “We have to remember these service members, these civilians are still members of our community that pay rent, that have mortgages to pay, child care, schools for their children, so the shutdown has real-world impacts and impacts right here at home in our communities.”
Singh said the shutdown freezing pay for service members and furloughed civilian employees would also affect national security.
“When it comes to a government shutdown, I think this really sends a message to allies and across the board because right now if the U.S. government shuts down, China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, these are countries that are not shutting down, that are continuing their operations,” Singh said. “So any type of shutdown, any type of impact to our military and our readiness has huge, profound impacts across the globe.”
A Republican congresswoman has introduced legislation that would allow military members to still receive their paychecks, even if a shutdown starts. Similar measures have been passed during previous government shutdowns.
“I’m very grateful for each person that makes the sacrifice to get out there and do what they go to do,” said Sheena Griffin, whose son deployed on the USS Carney. “This is a life choice that everybody makes, and they’re making the sacrifice for everybody out there. They’re serving their country.”
E-5 Ryan Lacey left his wife and four girls for six months when he deployed on the USS Carney on Wednesday.
“I’m going to miss them. They’re my world. And every chance I get, I’ve got photos of them, I’m going to be looking at them and thinking of them,” Lacey said.
Lacey’s wife, Ashley, said the separation is difficult.
“Some days it feels like it’s going to take a long time, and some days it feels like it’ll be the opposite,” Ashley Lacey said. “He’s been in boot camp, that was seven months, but I was able to talk to him for some of that, so this feels very different.”
Cmdr. Jeremy Robertson has been through multiple deployments. He said supporting the sailors and their loved ones through this deployment is a priority.
“The families are poised and we do a lot of training to make sure they have all the resources necessary in case they need some kind of help or reach back,” Robertson said.
The same morning the Carney deployed, two other ships returned home, the USS Little Rock and USS Detroit.
Along with military members, federal workers across the country still stung by the memories of past government shutdowns are grimacing and bracing for another potential extended closure. It’s a test not only of their ability to stay financially afloat, but also of their commitment to public service.
As a deal looks less and less likely, the White House and congressional Democrats, along with some Republicans, warn that a shutdown could be devastating for people who rely on the government for everyday services while putting a stop to paychecks for federal workers themselves and undermining America’s standing in the world.
“There are real consequences to real people in a real way when there is a shutdown,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said at a White House press briefing on Monday. He estimated 50,000 workers just at USDA would be furloughed, affecting not only the workers but also local economies where spending would be constrained.
Johnny J. Jones, secretary-treasurer of the TSA workers unit within the AFGE, said even a temporary loss in pay is a massive disruption for government workers who live paycheck to paycheck.
“People have to pay rent, they have child support payments,” he said.
Landlords don’t care about a shutdown, he said, and bills will always be due.
“The number one question in our minds is how long is this going to last,” Jones said.