JRM says critical military work on Guam to continue despite imminent shutdown
Governor's office: National Guard, Public Health and Behavioral Health likely to be hit by US budget crisis
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
While military personnel and civilian employees brace for possible furloughs, defense installations on Guam will continue carrying out their critical tasks in the face of an impending federal shutdown that is raising the stakes, the Joint Region Marianas said.
With no resolution on the horizon, a shutdown would leave the military without pay unless a newly introduced Senate bill guaranteeing undisrupted pay for armed forces is promptly enacted into law.
“We are in communication with our military and civilian personnel in preparation for a possible furlough,” Catherine Cruz Norton, deputy public affairs officer at JRM, said in an email.
According to the 2020 census, there were 21,700 service members and dependents on Guam, accounting for 14 percent of the island’s population of 153,836.
“The Joint Region Marianas and all military installations on Guam will continue mission critical activities, emergency work involving the safety of human life or the protection of property, and other excepted activities as directed by the chain of command to sustain the fleet in the event of a government shutdown,” Norton said.
Norton said ongoing military projects on Guam that have been authorized under prior appropriations will not be affected by the U.S. government shutdown.
“We are monitoring the situation closely, and remain committed to continuous communications with our team,” Norton said.
At the local government, the governor’s office said previous federal shutdowns had an immediate impact on certain programs within the Guam National Guard, Department of Public Health and Social Services, and Guam Behavioral Health.
“But the full impacts of a partial federal shutdown can’t be 100 percent known just yet,” said Krystal Paco-San Agustin, communications director at the governor’s office. “Congress’s failure to pass a budget is both reckless and wrong.”
However, Paco-San Agustin noted that Guam is familiar with the fiscal crisis in Washington.
“The 1990s, 2013, and 2018-2019 all saw partial shutdowns of the federal government,” she said. “Here is what we learned about Guam: The majority of Guam-based federal programs have some carryover funding available or have already obligated funds for this coming year. This means most of these programs should be able to operate through a temporary shutdown.”
While assessing the situation, she said the administration is receiving federal guidance “to detail specific program impacts as a shutdown draws near.”
“While we all pray that commonsense returns to Congress, know that your local government passed a budget on time, ensuring local resources and programs remain available to our people,” she added.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate voted 77-19 to begin debate on a measure that would fund the government through Nov. 17. The bill includes around $6 billion for domestic disaster responses.
U.S. senators have also introduced a bill that would guarantee all branches of the U.S. military continue to get paid in case of a government shutdown.
“We have entered the most dangerous period in American history since the end of World War II—a new era of authoritarian aggression led by the dictators in Beijing and Moscow,” said Sen. Dan Sullivan, the main author of S. 2835, titled "the Pay Our Military Act of 2023."
According to a press release from Sullivan’s office, the legislation would appropriate funds for the salaries of members of the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard and Space Force if a temporary or full-year federal funding bill is not passed and signed by Oct. 1.
If signed into law, the Pay Our Military Act would also cover reservists and civilian employees of the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security.
“All Americans count on our military members to be ready to respond to threats to the homeland, wherever and whenever they may arise,” Sullivan said.
“The last thing our brave men and women in uniform need to be worrying about is whether they will get a paycheck and whether their families are taken care of back home,” he added.
In a press briefing at the Pentagon last week, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks said the military will try to operate “as fully as we would be able to" and “make sure we keep America safe” throughout the shutdown.
“The (People's Republic of China) is not shutting down its operations. Russia's not shutting down its operations against Ukraine. We need to avert any kind of effect that a shutdown could have, not just on the Defense Department but throughout the federal government,” she said.
Regrettably, Hicks said, the department has learned how to operate in the short term through shutdowns.
“We're asking our military service members, those in uniform, to serve without pay,” she said. “We are asking our folks to do what they do best, which is to be doers and problem-solvers.”