Shutdown Sends Thousands Of Fort Hood Employees Home

Transportation assistant Mary Smith was among the civilian workers who received furlough letters Monday at Fort Hood. She’s also a veteran. (Photo by Rachel Cox)

FORT HOOD (October 1, 2013)--A bitterly divided Congress has plunged the nation into a partial government shutdown as a deadlock over President Barack Obama's health care law stalled a temporary funding bill, forcing about 800,000 federal workers off the job and suspending all but essential government activities.

That number includes some 6,000 civilian employees at Fort Hood who are expected to arrive at work at 8 a.m. Tuesday only to be sent home, Fort Hood and III Corps spokesman Chris Haug said Monday.

Thousands of other federal workers in Texas were set to begin furloughs after Congress plunged the nation into a partial government shutdown.

Nationwide, about 800,000 federal workers are being forced off the job as most non-essential federal programs and services are suspended.

The shutdown, the first since the winter of 1995-96, closed national parks, museums along the Washington Mall and the U.S. Capitol visitors center.

Agencies like NASA and the Environmental Protection Agency will be all but shuttered.

People classified as essential government employees - such as air traffic controllers, Border Patrol agents and most food inspectors - will continue to work.

The military will be paid under legislation freshly signed by Obama but paychecks for other federal workers will be withheld until the impasse is broken.

At Fort Hood, civilians whose jobs involve "life, health and safety functions" or preparing soldiers for deployment or returns from deployments won't be furloughed, Fort Hood said.

"Fort Hood leadership will continue to keep everyone informed as this situation develops," said Maj. Gen. Anthony Ierardi, III Corps and Fort Hood senior commander.

The shutdown affected the commissary, personnel services, building and housing maintenance calls, Army Community Services, the exceptional family member program, survivor outreach services and relocation services, Ierardi said.

Medical services at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center including the pharmacy will continue through next week, Ierardi said.

After that, officials say they will reassess the situation.

"However, despite the length of any potential shutdown, we can and will continue to support key healthcare services. The hospital will remain open every day for emergency services, inpatient care, and labor and delivery services," Ierardi said.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel issued a message Monday to Department of Defense personnel that called the shutdown "an unnecessary and unwelcome distraction from our mission of defending the nation."

Worldwide, the shutdown will result in furloughs for about half of the department's 800,000-person workforce.

The House and Senate did agree on a bill to pay members of the military, which means troops will be paid on time.

But civilians who remain on the job would be paid retroactively.