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Congress Does it Again

Military Members will get Paid on Time

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Updated April 10, 2011

At the very last minute, Congress pass another continuing spending resolutation which allows the Government to continue spending money until the 15th of this month. That means that military members will receive a pay check on the 15th of the month pay day. Although President Obama initially threatened to veto any further "continuing resolutions," hoping to pressure Congress into approving a new budget for the year, it now appears as if the President will sign the bill into law.

This means that military members and federal civilians will get paid on time this payday, but we'll probably be playing this game all over again a week from now, unless Congress gets their act together and comes up with a new budget for the year. This makes six stop-gap spending bills that Congress has passed since the new fiscal funding year began on October 1.

I've received several email comments from military members over the past few months, worried about getting paid on time. This was never a major concern of mine. I was on active duty several years ago in 1979 or 1980, when Congress failed to pass a budget or continuing resoluation on time, and military members did not get paid (actually, we finally did get paid, but payday came three days late). There was such an upcry from active duty members (very nearly a "strike"), that I was convinced that Congress would never let that happen again. So far, I've been right.

However, this practice of passing short-term "continuing resolutions" instead of a formalized budget each year causes other problems, even if military members get paid on time. Without a budget, it's almost impossible to manage PCS (Permament Change of Station) moves, schedule equipment maintenance, establish contracts, and purchase stocks ofr supplies. Additionally, it forces the services to spend money on contracts and services that were approved in last year's budget, but the military no longer wants or needs.

Congressional leaders say they are close to approving a new budget, and this one-week extension will give them the time needed to iron out all the bugs and come to an agreement. Details of the new budget are not entirely clear at this point, but appears to include about $533 billion in defense spending authorization, which is $16 billion less than President Obama asked for in his military budget request. However, this would still be an improvement, as the continuing temporary funding caps spending for the year at the 2010 spending level, which as $526 billion.

Congress did consider legislation that would permanently exempt the military from any pay delays, but Congressional leaders balked at such a bill because they feel the threat of troops not getting paid keeps negotiators at the table.

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