The budget debacle that paralyzed Washington for weeks is over — for now.
But the ninth-inning maneuvering by Congress and the White House keeps the lights on only until Jan. 15, when the nation may be treated to “Shutdown: The Sequel.”
The roughly three months until then is a window of opportunity for the Defense Department to heed some critical lessons. Foremost among them:
Fine-tune the contingency plan.
A particularly disturbing aspect of the shutdown was an information vacuum out of the Pentagon about which programs and benefits would continue and which would not — disarray that sowed unnecessary angst and confusion in the ranks.
This was not entirely DoD’s fault — lawmakers passed a piecemeal law on military pay programs containing provisions that were not entirely clear. Some issues also required DoD to consult with White House budget officials.
But if DoD gets a partial pass this time, there are no excuses for any repeat performance.
Pentagon and service officials need to go through the entire roster of programs and decide what happens to each one if the government shuts down again.
What does the Defense Finance and Accounting Service do? Will commissaries stay open? Will military hospitals and clinics still make routine appointments? Will bonuses, danger pay and other special pays continue? What about PCS moves?
Equally important, DoD should put out the word on these contingencies ahead of a potential shutdown.
That way, everyone will know what to expect, and there will be no morale-torching surprises.