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Update: Navy changes shutdown pay guidance, says bonuses and special pays are safe

Oct. 1, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
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Vice Adm. Bill Moran, the chief of naval personnel, released a lengthy memo Tuesday outlining how the shutdown will affect Navy personnel matters. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

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Sailors will get their bonuses and those in war zones will get the danger pays they’re entitled to, the Navy said Tuesday, revising guidance issued earlier in the day that had said these would be delayed during the government shutdown.

However, sailors’ ability to enter into new contracts or change their pay may be limited because the civilian personnel specialists who process them will be furloughed, the guidance says.

In addition, advancement results, personnel transfers and the training pipeline all could see delays depending on the length of the shutdown.

The changes are based on a revised interpretation of the so-called Pay Our Military Act approved by lawmakers last night, legislation that provides the services with “such sums as are necessary to provide pay and allowances” to service members.

Vice Adm. Bill Moran, the chief of naval personnel, released a lengthy memo Tuesday afternoon, updating a previous one that outlines how the shutdown will affect personnel matters. Among the biggest concerns:

■ The number of new bonus agreements, including enlistment and re-enlistment, “will be limited during the shutdown,” the memo said. Those re-enlisting during the shutdown for a selective reenlistment bonus must have a end-of-obligated service date during the shutdown period, according to the memo.

■ Sailors won’t be able to get new tuition assistance money until the civilians who run the Navy College Offices return. But the service will continue to pay out existing TA contracts.

■ No boards will be convened during the shutdown.

■ Fall advancement results, for active-duty sailors and reservists, may be delayed.

Sailors will continue to receive their base pay and subsistence and housing allowances, as well as all special duty incentive pays, like hazardous duty pay or sea duty incentive pay.

In addition, Navy Personnel Command will only process permanent change-of-station orders to activities deemed essential or for those heading from boot camp and training to their first duty station. And sailors should expect “limited support and longer wait times” at personnel support detachments, Moran said.

The Navy Advancement Center “will be unable to receive, scan and process” the tests for Reserve Cycle 093, taken in August, and for the active-duty Cycle 220, taken in September, while civilians are furloughed, Moran said.

There are 1,774 sailors set to be advanced Oct. 16. If the shutdown goes long enough, the Navy may be delayed in giving them their new pay, which must changed by Oct. 10 to start processing.

The new guidance adds one more caveat — sailors’ pay and benefits will be hit hard if the Treasury Department runs out of money, as it is set to do in mid-October unless lawmakers raise the debt ceiling.

“That’s the big part of this that our folks don’t know yet,” one Navy personnel official told Navy Times after the new guidance was released Tuesday.

Sailors are still assessing the long list of effects and some uncertainty remains over who is impacted. However, many expressed relief that the shutdown won’t hit bonuses or special pays. The Navy’s initial interpretation of the law would have entailed more severe and widespread affects, including withholding danger pay to sailors in war zones.

Vets groups lamented the shutdown, blaming it for sowing confusion and anxiety.

“The government shutdown is outrageous and there’s a lot of anxiety and uncertainty within the active, reserve, retiree and veterans’ communities,” said retired Master Chief Joseph Barnes, the executive director of the Fleet Reserve Association, in an email. “We’re closely tracking what’s happening to help provide information to our membership.”

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