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National Guard faces the shutdown

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- National Guard personnel are feeling the effects of the government shutdown and leaders are worried about the readiness of the component, Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, the vice chief of the National Guard Bureau, said Oct. 11.

The Pay Our Military Act has mitigated some of the effects of the partial government shutdown for the Guard, but there are still concerns, the general said.

The act does not allow for drill training periods, unless the drill is in support of an excepted activity such as preparing for an overseas deployment, he said.

"Most October drills are canceled, impacting nearly 400,000 National Guard members," Lengyel said. "These drill periods are critical to maintaining the training and preparedness of our citizen soldiers and Airmen –nearly 85 percent of our force."

For individual Guardsmen canceling drills means a loss of pay. For units it means degrading the readiness needed to respond to homeland and overseas missions.

Not all units are impacted.

"Units preparing for deployment are not affected by the government shutdown," Lengyel said. "The National Guard is now the best-trained and best-equipped force in our history. We are indispensable to both domestic and overseas operations. It would be extremely unfortunate to this nation if our readiness is allowed to atrophy."

The shutdown is delaying some training deployments, the general said, but it will not affect Guardsmen's ability to deploy for actual, real-world missions.

The National Guard responds to emergencies within the United States. Recent activities included providing assistance to local authorities during flooding in Colorado, aiding in fighting wildfires in the West and preparing for storms in the East. Guardsmen and civilians who work for the Guard remain on call despite the shutdown.

"During the lapse of appropriations, DOD civilians who support the military in support of the preservation of life and protection of property were allowed to continue working," Lengyel said.

When Tropical Storm Karen threatened the Gulf Coast, the Guard worked with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to authorize the recall of up to 2,200 additional National Guard military technicians to assist with disaster response actions.

"The department has now recalled additional categories of civilians as defined by the Pay Our Military Act," he said.

The initial shutdown furlough impacted more than 40,000 dual-status military technicians. These men and women are civilian employees during the week and drilling Guardsmen.

"They provide critical support that makes it possible for traditional Guard soldiers to train and operate, such as performing day-to-day equipment maintenance, managing pay and other administrative functions," the general said.

Under the act, DOD was able to recall additional categories of civilians, leaving the National Guard with nearly 250 dual-status technicians still on furlough.

"While this is a positive development, there is still more work to be done in order to get everyone back to work," he said.

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