What will a federal shutdown mean for Fort Benning?

By Lindsey Connell - bio | email

FORT BENNING, GA (WTVM) -  There's no budget deal in sight between Congressional Democrats and Republicans.

The standstill in Washington is over how much to cut government spending and where to cut it. A government shutdown is possible if the agreement isn't reached by midnight Friday- the first since the mid 1990s.

Army officials at Fort Benning have not yet received specific instructions on what actions will need to be taken if the shutdown goes into effect. Colonel Thomas Collins, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon, told WTVM Wednesday that soldiers will get paid in the long run.

"Soldiers, people in uniform, will continue to come to work. There's been some questions about whether they will be paid. They will be paid eventually but until we get a budget, you can't really authorize pay unless you have Congressional authorization so they will eventually get paid for the period after the 8th of April, it's just they might not see it on their paycheck come the 15th," he said in an interview over the phone.

Civilian employees across the Army will be furloughed except for essential personnel like hospital workers.

"Congress continues to work the issue in an effort to achieve a federal budget. If that doesn't happen, then Monday it looks like we'll have to furlough Army civilian employees across the Army except for the essential personnel. By essential, I mean those that are geared toward safety and security and essential services on Army installations so it's not like everything is going to come to a screeching halt. Some services would discontinue because they won't be considered essential but the main things associated with the security of our installations, the health of our employees and our military workforce, those will continue,"Colonel Collins added.

"The Army leadership is concerned. We continue to work this with Congressional representatives in an effort to show what the impact will be but soldiers will get paid and our civilian employees will eventually come back to work but until we get a federal budget, we'll just have to see how this is going to turn out."

Fort Benning officials expect to receive an execute order from the Deputy Secretary of Defense by Thursday afternoon outlining the requirements if the shutdown happens.

Nonessential civilian workers who are furloughed will not get any back pay, according to Colonel Collins. He said they would be eligible for unemployment benefits. The Army has 220,000 civilian workers. It's not clear how many could fall under the furlough.

Besides its potential impact on military installations, Sandra Salstrom, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Treasury, says the shutdown would stop processing of paper income tax filings to the IRS at the height of tax season.

"In the event of a government shutdown, the tax filing deadline will still be April 18th. The IRS would not be able to process paper-filed tax returns, however, those filed electronically will still be processed and money owed to the government will still be collected," Salstrom said in a statement.

Local FBI agents and deputies with the United States Marshals Service will also have to report to work in the event of a shutdown because they are considered essential government personnel. Sources tell WTVM they have received back pay for furloughs in the past.

Our calls to a representative for the local federal court system were not returned Wednesday.

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