Inexcusable Confusion

(NAVY TIMES 14 OCT 13) … Editorial

The government shutdown that is paralyzing Washington and causing ripple effects across the nation could have been seen coming from miles away.

Unfortunately, Defense Department brass seem to have their heads in the sand.

Three full business days after the shutdown kicked in, Pentagon officials were still in disarray, scrambling to figure out which programs and benefits could continue, and which could not.

Take combat danger pay. Defense officials initially said this incentive pay for troops deployed to combat zones – $7.50 a day, up to $225 a month – could not be paid during the shutdown.

But then House Armed Services Committee leaders jumped in to say that’s not how they interpret the law, and urged DoD to continue dispensing the pay.

Unable or unwilling to go it alone, DoD decided to punt to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, where the matter remained at press time, in deep limbo – with more than 50,000 troops still in harm’s way in Afghanistan.

Other examples abound, ranging from mild annoyances to deep hardships: commissaries closed, medical appointments delayed, re-enlistment bonuses not paid, reassignment orders canceled.

All shamefully unnecessary.

Long in advance, the Pentagon should have ironed out such details and gotten approval for how to handle every major program that could be crimped by the looming shutdown.

Now Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel must light a fire under his legal staff to engage OMB and clarify policy as soon as possible.

Troops and their families don’t deserve to be penalized for the failures of the Pentagon, Congress and the White House.

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