Adm. Karl L. Schultz, the commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, appeared in a video on Tuesday alongside the branch’s Master Chief Petty Officer Jason M. Vanderhaden to express his gratitude to the American people for support while calling the continued shutdown “unacceptable.” He cited the stress it’s placed on men and women throughout the branch.
“We’re five-plus weeks into the anxiety and stress of this government lapse and your non-pay,” Admiral Schultz said. “You, as members of the armed forces, should not be expected to shoulder this burden.”
Adm. Schultz conveyed his gratitude to the American people for an outpouring of support the Coast Guard received through the shutdown. Coast Guard operations continue around the globe, despite the lapse in pay.
“Ultimately, I find it unacceptable that Coast Guard men and women have to rely on food pantries and donations to get through day-to-day life as service members,” he concluded.
Thus far, 41,000 active duty Coast Guard members and 2,100 civilian employees of the branch continue to work without pay, with concern regarding another missed paycheck looming in just over a week. An additional 6,000 Coast Guard civilian employees were furloughed due to their non-essential capacity.
These numbers are a small segment of the more than 800,000 government unpaid employees as President Trump faces off with Democratic lawmakers to secure some $5.7 billion to fund construction of a barrier between the United States and Mexico. Trump justifies the continued standoff as necessary to address a threat to national security.
Without a Wall our Country can never have Border or National Security. With a powerful Wall or Steel Barrier, Crime Rates (and Drugs) will go substantially down all over the U.S. The Dems know this but want to play political games. Must finally be done correctly. No Cave!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 22, 2019
However, critics of the president say the emergency is manufactured, and that sacrificing pay for groups like the U.S. Coast Guard, who help to secure America’s coast line, shows the shutdown is continuing over ego, rather than national security.
Adm. Schultz was careful not to allow politics to color his statements regarding the shutdown, clearly avoiding any mention of the lawmakers involved any specific elements of the debate. By calling the shutdown unacceptable but refraining from placing blame on either party, Adm. Schultz may have managed to avoid the inevitable backlash that tends to follow military leaders breaking from tradition and addressing politics directly.
Of course, it’s the Coast Guard’s unusual standing as a military branch that has landed them on the wrong side of the shutdown in the first place. Because the Coast Guard serves in both military and law enforcement capacity, it doesn’t fall under the Department of Defense. The other military branches haven’t experienced an interruption in pay during the shutdown.
Early this week, the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf departed for a six-month deployment in the Pacific. The 170 crew members aboard the ship, like all Coast Guardsmen, aren’t currently receiving pay.
“The crew, like all other [Coast Guard] members, are affected by the lapse of appropriations, and are not being paid,” said Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Steve Brickey. “It is always difficult to deploy for months and leave behind family and loved ones. That stress is of course magnified when you add on the uncertainly of the shutdown.”
You can watch the full video of Adm.and Chief Vanderhaden below:
Your Coast Guard leadership team & the American people stand in awe of your continued dedication to duty, resilience, & that of your families. I find it unacceptable that @USCG members must rely on food pantries & donations to get through day-to-day life. #uscg pic.twitter.com/TZ9ppUidyO
— Admiral Karl L. Schultz (@ComdtUSCG) January 23, 2019