Uncle Sam turns out the lights on Saturday – President Trump’s 100th day in office -- if Congress doesn’t come up with a funding plan by midnight.
If that happens – as it did in 2013 – the military’s expected to take some of the hardest hits. Admiral Bill Moran, Vice Chief of Naval Operations, says the message from the Pentagon will be the same as the one the past several months -- when a shutdown became a possibility.
“As we move further into the year without a budget, and especially an amended budget which provides some much needed cash to do things like ship maintenance, depot maintenance, pay our people; it’s going to get more and more painful the longer we go,” said Moran.
CNN reports the Navy is warning that three warship deployments would be shut down, along with four of the nine carrier groups now in port. Two dozen Marine Corps squadrons would be grounded and training interrupted.
“Where I am very concerned, is in the military testing and military readiness that goes on in northwest Florida,” said Congressman Matt Gaetz – whose First District includes Naval Air Stations Pensacola and Whiting Field and Eglin Air Force Base.
A member of both the House Armed Services and Budget Committee, Gaetz believes the possible shutdown is a symptom of a larger affliction on Capitol Hill when it comes to developing a spending plan.
“I want to see structural changes to how Washington budgets and spends money,” Gaetz said. “I think we need a tremendous amount of discipline placed on the Congress.”
Many residents in the Florida Panhandle – where the economy relies heavily on the region’s military bases – are watching Washington with the sequestration of 2013 fresh on their minds. That shutdown grounded the Blue Angels for the season after just two performances. On a larger, more personal scale, thousands of civilian employees missed paychecks.
“Government shutdowns don’t save money; they cost money. So we should do everything we can to avoid one, while at the same time not violating our principles,” said Gaetz.
The House Armed Services Committee is scheduled to meet in the next few days with the full roster of military leaders – who are expected to explain just what will happen if Congress fails to pass a year-long continuing resolution. Admiral Bill Moran is expected to be among them.
“We’ve been down this parade before; we know how to do this [but] it’s not something we want to do,” Moran said. “But if we end up in a government shutdown we know what we need to do.”
Another key is President Trump’s apparent backtracking on building his wall on the U.S./Mexico border. He now says it can wait until September, sources tell CNN. Immigration-related arrests are up almost 33% in the first months of the Trump administration according to ICE -- Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Cong. Matt Gaetz, who is a “strong proponent” of the wall, says the figures support such a delay.
“We’re taking stands against some of the entitlements that are given to illegal aliens,” said Gaetz. “We’re getting serious about enforcement; we’re sending criminals back, You’re having a natural decline that’s occurring now, in that illegal immigration.”
In an email statement to WUWF, a spokeswoman with the Navy Office of Information said they were working closely with the Office of Management and Budget to prepare for what it calls an “unlikely eventuality.”