Gates: Shutdown ‘Can Be A Problem’ For Military Families That ‘Live Pretty Much Paycheck To Paycheck’

One painful consequence of a possible looming government shutdown is that U.S. troops, many of whom are currently stationed and fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, will not get paid. “You could have forces deployed in the field, with their families back home, and no one’s getting paid. And that could be an issue,” one defense department official said.

At Camp Liberty in Baghdad today, an American soldier asked Defense Secretary Robert Gates about the government shutdown affecting military pay. “Let me say,” Gates said, “you will be paid.” He noted the main problem with troops not receiving pay on time:

GATES: Based on some stuff I read this morning, if the government shutdown starts on the 8th and goes for a week, you’d get a half a check. If it goes from the 15th to the 30th, you wouldn’t get a paycheck on the 30th, but you would be back paid for all of it. So that’s the deal.

And, frankly, I remember when I was your age I did a lot of living from paycheck to paycheck. And so, I hope this thing doesn’t happen because I know it will be an inconvenience for a lot of troops.

Taking to reporters after the Q&A with soldiers, Gates reiterated his concern. “You all know as well as I do that a lot of these young troops live pretty much paycheck to paycheck, and when I start to think about the inconvenience that it’s going to cause these kids and a lot of their families, even half a paycheck delayed can be a problem for them,” he said. Watch the report:

Gates is correct. While troops will earn pay during the shutdown, they won’t actually receive any money until the budget crisis is over and the federal government is fully operational again. That means that military families, many of which do live paycheck to paycheck, will have difficulties paying rent and utilities or even buying food.

Indeed, the Navy Times reported yesterday that, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, “an extended government shutdown would severely hurt military families and require the military to organize financial help for those who don’t have savings to cover bills.” “Families with a second income and with substantial savings might be able to manage with few problems,” the CRS report said, adding, “Others, particularly deployed personnel with young families and limited savings, might be affected very badly.”