Government shutdown still impacting Fort Lee
October 9, 2013
By Sarah Gauvin
FORT LEE, Va. (Oct. 9, 2013) -- While most of Fort Lee's recently furloughed Department of Defense civilians returned to work Monday, the government shutdown is still impacting installation services, activities and pay for furloughed employees.
Some of the hardest hit functions are those involving the local community.
Due to continuing fiscal constraints, an Oktoberfest event originally scheduled for Saturday on post is cancelled. The Army Best Warrior Competition, a major service-wide event held annually at Fort Lee and scheduled for Oct. 15-17, is postponed. Fort Lee's annual Run for the Fallen planned for Oct. 19 also may be rescheduled to a later date.
During a lapse in appropriations, the Department of Defense can legally only conduct activities that protect the safety of individuals and government property; are in conjunction with approved military operations; or are directly related to police, fire and emergency medical services.
The passage of the Pay Our Military Act gave the military a wider set of installation-support parameters under which government civilians could be returned to duty. The new guidelines included "those operations that support the morale, well-being, capabilities and readiness of military members," according to DOD's guidance on the Act.
Military support of off-post community activities, however, is prohibited during the government shutdown.
"While community outreach initiatives reinforce the trust and confidence of the American people in our Soldiers, the Army weighed the benefits carefully against the ability to support the warfight and wartime demands placed on these assets," wrote Maj. Gen. Larry Wyche, Fort Lee's senior commander, in a message to community members. "Unfortunately, effective immediately, we must cease all outreach engagements until the conclusion of the government shutdown."
Staff members at the Garrison Public Affairs Office cannot accept or process new community requests for support. Additionally, previously approved requests for color guards, the 392nd Army Band, military vehicles, speakers or exhibits to appear off post are cancelled during the shutdown.
"We don't know if this situation is going to change tomorrow or at some distant point in the future," said Col. Paul Brooks, Fort Lee Garrison commander. "With that in mind, we're hanging on to key events as long as we can before we make the decision to postpone or cancel them."
Once an appropriations bill or a continuing resolution is passed, Fort Lee Public Affairs and operations personnel will evaluate previously approved requests to determine if military personnel and assets are available. At that time, new requests for support also will be considered. Requesters with questions are encouraged to contact PAO at (804) 734-7451.
Many civilians are also wondering about the impact of the government shutdown on pay and benefits. In accordance with the Pay Our Military Act, pay and leave is restored to civilians who were recalled to work this week. However, the Act does not authorize retroactive pay covering the emergency furlough period -- separate legislation for that is still pending. Civilians should expect their next leave and earnings statement to reflect any non-paid status connected to the furlough.
Furthermore, the Act does not change existing restrictions on supply purchases or funding for training or travel. Due to the absence of appropriated funding, the Army has cancelled temporary duty travel to schools or educational facilities for Soldiers and civilian employees scheduled to attend military education or leader-development courses.
The Act did, however, enable the opening of some services that were unavailable because of civilian furloughs. Both the Fort Lee Commissary and the privately owned weapons range opened this week with normal operating hours. Hunting on post is now authorized as well.
While Child, Youth and School Service facilities and MacLaughlin Fitness Center will remain open, the operating status of other Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs and facilities is uncertain.
Fort Lee FMWR Director Paul Heilman said, "Due to complex funding streams, some
FMWR facilities and activities like Leisure and Travel Services, Auto Shop and Outdoor
Recreation may be unavailable in the near future. Please continue to seek updates from the Fort Lee and FMWR social media sites."
The status of other post activities is subject to change as well due to the continuing fiscal uncertainty. Visit www.facebook.com/ArmyFortLee for updates and announcements related to cancellations, postponements and other changes.