| WASHINGTON, Sept 27
WASHINGTON, Sept 27 The U.S. Defense Department
will put half of its 800,000 civilian employees on unpaid leave
and halt military activity not viewed as vital to national
security in the event of a
government shutdown next week, a senior Pentagon official said
The department's 1.4 million military personnel would keep
working even if Congress fails to reach a deal to fund
government operations after the start of the 2014 fiscal year on
Oct. 1, Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale told reporters.
U.S. forces would continue fighting the Afghanistan war,
patrolling the Mediterranean off Syria and conducting other
operations considered necessary for the safety of human life and
protection of property, but military personnel would not be paid
until Congress reaches a deal to fund the government, he said.
Military death benefits to families could be delayed in some
cases, but Hale said workers involved in transferring the bodies
of war dead and conducting funeral services for members of the
armed forces would continue their duties.
Hale's comments came as the Defense Department, the U.S.
government's largest agency, released an eight page contingency
plan for dealing with a government shutdown beginning on Tuesday
in the event the U.S. Congress fails to pass an emergency
spending bill to fund ongoing operations.
If a shutdown does occur, it would be the second time this
year that some civilian defense employees have been placed on
unpaid leave. The Pentagon put more than 600,000 employees on
unpaid leave for several weeks during the summer because of
"A lapse of appropriations causes civilian furloughs. It is
one more blow to the morale of our civilian work force, and that
morale is already low," Hale said. "Even if a lapse never
occurs, the planning itself is disruptive. People are worrying
right now about whether their paychecks are going to be delayed
rather than focusing on the mission."
Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said in a memo
accompanying the plan that U.S. forces would continue to fight
Afghanistan war and conduct other operations "necessary for the
safety of human life and protection of property" because those
activities are exempted from a lapse in appropriations.
"All other activities would need to be shut down in an
orderly and deliberate fashion," Carter said.
Guidance issued by the department said contractors working
under fully funded agreements awarded before appropriations ran
out would continue working, but new or extended contracts could
not be executed.
"No funds will be available to pay such new contracts or
place additional increments of funding on contracts until
Congress appropriates additional funds," the contingency plan