Coast Guard units continue to work despite the extended government shutdown, but as the political standoff continues in Washington the service may not be able to pay personnel as scheduled Jan. 15.
The last payday was Jan. 1, and with a week to go neighbors of the Coast Guard Cape May Training Center, Cape May, N.J., are organizing donations of household supplies in case the budget impasse is not resolved.
Unlike branches of the military in the Department of Defense, the Coast Guard is part of the Department of Homeland Security. Its 42,000 members are on active duty with the prospect of going unpaid, as are airport security screeners with the Transportation Security Administration.
Some 1,000 people work at the facility, the East Coast training site for new recruits and a homeport for small boat and cutter crews.
But the effort ran into one wrinkle – a provision in the code of federal regulations that says federal employees may not accept gifts, defined as “anything of value,” said chief warrant officer John Edwards, a spokesman for the training center.
That was solved with the involvement of the Jersey Cape Military Spouses Association, a local nonprofit group that is accepting the donations for distribution to employees of any federal agency who are affected by the shutdown, said Edwards.
The base has an area available for the group to use as storage and a storefront where people can some to pick up supplies, anything from diapers for dog food, he said.
Other businesses in the community pitched in as well, like the C-View Inn, a local restaurant just down the road from the base gate that began offering 50% discounts to all service members. Similar grassroots efforts have been reported in other communities that have a big Coast Guard presence.
On Monday the U.S. Naval Institute published an opinion column in its journal Proceedings written by retired Adm. Thad Allen, the retired Coast Guard commandant. Allen wrote that “leaders of all branches of government” are failing in their “constitutional responsibilities.”
“While this political theater ensues, there are junior Coast Guard petty officers, with families, who are already compensated at levels below the national poverty level, who will not be paid during this government shutdown,” Allen wrote. “There is no reasonable answer as to why these families have to endure this hardship in the absence of a national emergency.”