Despite Shutdown, Coast Guard Will Receive All Pay for December

A boat crew from the cutter Richard Snyder assists a disabled yacht on December 29, the day after the pay fix was completed (USCG)

Published Dec 30, 2018 7:38 PM by The Maritime Executive

42,000 Coast Guard servicemembers and employees will receive their normal paycheck on December 31 after the Trump administration took action to ensure that they were not affected by the ongoing government shutdown. 

On Friday, Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) contacted the White House after learning that the partial shutdown would prevent the Coast Guard's payroll system from sending out the paychecks on time. Over the weekend, the administration worked with the Department of Homeland Security and the Coast Guard to find a workaround. This temporary measure resulted from extensive research and legal analysis conducted by the Coast Guard, DHS, and the Office of Management and Budget, which together determined the Coast Guard has the authority to issue the affected pay and allowances for December, despite the lapse in appropriations. 

According to the USCG, the action is a one-time arrangement. It applies to servicemembers and military reservists who served on active duty in December, along with military reservists who conducted training before December 21, the last day before the shutdown began. 

Coast Guard servicemembers still do not know if they will get paid on January 15, 2019. In order for DHS to meet active duty and reserve military payroll for January 2019, Congress will have to pass a FY2019 appropriation, a continuing resolution, or an alternative stopgap measure.

Due to differences over funding for a proposed wall at the southern border, Congress and the White House have not reached a deal for a continuing resolution to keep the federal government fully open and running. An estimated 800,000 federal employees are either furloughed or working without pay until a new agreement is reached. 54,000 agents and officials from Customs and Border Protection, 4,400 DEA agents and 3,600 Weather Service forecasters are among those who will be serving without pay. The Department of Defense is already funded and will not be immediately affected by the shutdown.

President Donald Trump has indicated that unless the border wall project receives $5 billion in funding, "there will be a shutdown that will last for a very long time." Though Trump's party controls both houses of the legislature, the proposed wall funding does not have enough support in the Senate to pass. 

Confusion over icebreaker funding

On Christmas Day, President Trump appeared to mistakenly assert that the Coast Guard's new heavy icebreaker has been ordered. The $750 million vessel is among the USCG's top acquisition priorities, as its current heavy icebreaker is nearing the end of its useful service life. However, due to the impasse over border wall funding, Congress has not yet appropriated funds for a replacement. The House version of the DHS appropriations bill contains no funding for the icebreaker and $5 billion for the wall; the Senate version contains $750 million for the icebreaker. 

In a holiday videoconference with members of the military, Trump asserted that his administration had recently ordered the most powerful icebreaker in the world.  

"And we just ordered a Coast Guard Cutter, the - an icebreaker - the likes of which nobody has seen before. The bad part is the price; the good part is it’s the most powerful in the world.  And it can go just about anywhere. The ice is in big trouble when that thing gets finished.  It’ll go right through it. But it’s very expensive, but that’s okay; we have to get the best," Trump said, addressing a coastguardsman on the call. "But you folks are going to be very proud of it. Because you’ve seen it, I’m sure."