Short Shutdowns Can Be Hugely Disruptive, Associations Say

The federal government’s three-day shutdown caused a massive headache for tens of thousands of National Guard members over the weekend, the association that represents guardsmen says. And other groups say the shutdown created weeks of tension even before it happened.

From start to finish, last weekend’s federal government shutdown lasted less than 72 hours. But it the related disruptions began long before Friday night, and the ripple effects will last for some time ahead, according to several associations speaking out this week.

Last weekend, a major combat exercise involving more than 90,000 National Guardsmen had to be cancelled because of the shutdown, the National Guard Association of the United States noted Monday.

A chance to enhance their readiness was lost, as well as two days’ pay.

“Soldiers 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,” said NGAUS Chairman Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, along with the group’s president, retired Brig. Gen. Roy Robinson, in a statement.

Many National Guardsmen are weekend warriors, and planning training exercises requires extensive coordination, including with civilian employers.

“Training can be rescheduled, but it requires some complex choreography,” Hoyer and Robinson added. “Training sites must be scheduled months in advance. Commanders have other plans for the months ahead. So do our families.”

NGAUS advocates for two-year defense budgets to minimize disruptions like the one seen this week.

Multiple federal officials told The New York Times that the possibility of a shutdown was a source of constant tension for government workers in the days leading up to it. And the short 17-day extension in the continuing resolution that was adopted on Monday isn’t enough to reduce the uncertainty.

“I’m not holding my breath,” National Air Traffic Controllers Association President Paul M. Rinaldi told the Times. “You know and I know: Congress is not going to start working well tomorrow.”

Professional Services Council President and CEO David Berteau, meanwhile, noted to NextGov that contractors will likely go unpaid for any schedule disruptions.

“Contractors often end up suffering more than federal civilian employees do from the same shutdown effect,” Berteau said. “History says that, while civilian employees who are forced not to work will eventually be paid, contractors under the same instructions will not be.”

(MivPiv/E+/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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