The Shutdown is Over, For Now

Congress on Monday approved a three-week continuing resolution, paving the way for the government to reopen after a three-day shutdown. DOD graphic.

The House and Senate on Monday approved a three-week temporary spending deal, paving the way for the federal government to reopen Tuesday. President Trump signed the bill, which keeps the government funded through Feb. 8, Monday evening.

The Senate voted 81-18 after Republicans agreed to hold a vote by the middle of next month on “dreamers,” or unauthorized youth brought to this country as children. The issue had been a major sticking point for Democrats. The House quickly followed with a vote of 266-150, reported Politico.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) said after offers and counter offers, he had reached agreement with Republican leadership on an “arrangement.”

“I am pleased that Democrats in Congress have come to their senses and are now willing to fund our great military, border patrol, first responders, and insurance for vulnerable children,” President Trump said in a statement.

“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,” he added.

Defense Department-wide, about 50 percent of the total civilian workforce was furloughed on Monday—a total of 750,000 civilians, Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Michelle Baldanza said. Pentagon hallways and parking lots emptied as civilian employees filed out after filing paperwork to be furloughed before Congress voted to end the shutdown.

Air Mobility Command had about 4,000 civilians who were subject to the furlough on Monday. Operationally, the command’s Air Operations Center had about 500 missions planned for Monday and were working through which ones should fly as Congress worked to reopen the government, AMC spokesman Maj. Korry Leverett said.

AMC determined that all operational missions should continue, including missions to and from US Central Command and coronet refueling flights supporting fighter aircraft. However, training missions were canceled at the discretion of individual wings. The exact number of impact flights was not available Monday afternoon as the government reopened.

Air Combat Command employs more than 10,000 civilians and those who are not tasked with jobs impacting safety and national security were subjected to the furlough. On Monday, ACC kept most of its aircraft flying: Flights supporting named operations, in support of units deploying for named operations, and pipeline students getting qualified on their airframe were able to keep flying, command spokeswoman Maj. Docleia Gibson said. For example, flights in support of both Green Flag-West and the US Air Forces Weapons School at Nellis AFB, Nev., kept flying during the shutdown, according to Nellis. ACC did not have exact numbers of flights that were grounded during the brief shutdown.

Civilians make up the majority of the 80,000 employees of Air Force Materiel Command—the command that relies the most on its non-blue suit workforce. AFMC’s headquarters base of Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, implemented an “orderly shutdown” of civilian employees and military members remained on duty, base spokesman Daryl Mayer said.

Air Education and Training Command told Air Force Magazine on Monday afternoon it would continue to provide guidance to airmen until the “disruptive shutdown” is undone.

“When our leaders are notified of the government reopening, we will begin the orderly process of reaching out to our units and notifying them of a return to normal operations,” Capt. Beau Downey said in an email to Air Force Magazine on Monday. “We expect this process to be smooth.” Downey said he “encouraged” all airmen to rely on their chain of command to address concerns, and said it was not yet clear how long it will take to get things started again after Congress reaches an agreement.

“Recruiting activities, basic military training, technical training that contributes to three-level/initial skills qualification, and flying training that contributes to undergraduate and graduate qualifications are excepted activities and will continue. This includes training conducted by Active Duty, Guard, and Reserve units,” Brown wrote. “Courses that do not fit into these categories will be shut down in an orderly fashion beginning on the next regularly scheduled duty day.”

Many amenities at bases across the Air Force were closed, including libraries, pools, and family and readiness centers. The National Museum of the US Air Force at Wright-Patterson closed as well.

Air Force Reserve Command spokesman Col. Bruce Bender said the command hosted drill over the weekend, but only in cases where the mission was tied directly to activities set out in shutdown guidance, which was contained in a memo the Defense Department issued last week.

“It is distressing for our Reservists and civilian teammates to suffer through a furlough again,” he said. “The lack of a budget or continuing resolution creates serious uncertainty and will have severe and disruptive financial effect on an already stressed workforce of thousands of military and civilian Reserve citizen airmen.”

Meanwhile, two leaders of the National Guard Association of the United States issued a statement Monday pointing to the damage they said the shutdown will cause the National Guard.

Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, chairman of the board, and retired Brig. Gen. Roy Robinson, the organization’s president, said the impact of even a one-workday shutdown on National Guardsmen, their families, and employers will “linger for weeks, if not months.”

They said training was canceled for Guardsmen over the weekend, including a major combat exercise that involved units from North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia that required six months to plan. About 12,000 Air National Guardsmen were not able to drill over the weekend, according to the National Guard Bureau.

Guardsmen “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.

Major Air Force acquisition programs were largely unaffected by the closure. Production continued on the F-35 and KC-46 programs, for example, and the Defense Contract Management Agency, which maintains an on-site presence at such facilities, continued that function, although for Monday morning some of these positions were “working without pay,” one government official reported. Plans for furloughs of government workers were still being developed as of Monday morning, he said.

The F-35 Joint Program Office was open for business, although it is populated by workers who get paid “from a lot of different pots,” such as the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, government agencies, partner nations, and contractors, one official said, so it was unlikely that activities would have ground to a full stop even without the government extension.

A longer-term closure would have created more serious troubles, industry officials said, but one noted that “each of these [government] shutdowns we have experienced in recent years has been unique in some way, so there really is … no playbook to tell us how to prepare for it.”

Most industry officials reached for comment offered that they would work with their government partners to “mitigate the effects” of the shutdown, had it persisted.

“Especially because we are a nation at war, AFA is disheartened at the politics and disregard of our military. The Air Force has unprecedented readiness issues already, and further budget delays risk aerospace superiority. The cost of losing aerospace superiority, something the US has possessed since the Korean War, jeopardizes the success of future military operations and unnecessarily endangers soldiers on the battlefield,” AFA said in a statement released Friday.

“AFA strongly urges Congress to level off from this dangerous descent of inaction by passing a full fiscal year 2018 Defense Appropriations bill immediately. Declining to do so prevents the Air Force from getting contracts finalized this fiscal year. The world is too dangerous to risk future delays in adequately supporting the millions of service members, civilians, veterans, and military families who serve or have served our great nation.”