Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Friday morning that a government shutdown would have a “terrible impact” on military operations.
“Our maintenance activities will probably pretty much shut down. We will not be able to induct any more of our gear that need maintenance,” he said Friday morning at the Johns Hopkins University, where he was unveiling the National Defense Strategy.
The government is barreling towards a shutdown at 11:59 p.m. Friday night, with the Senate unable to pass a 2018 spending bill or a stop-gap measure to keep the government running. At issue is immigration reform. Democrats have refused to pass a spending measure unless there is a fix for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which the president rescinded last year, but gave Congress until March 5 to fix.
Republicans argue Democrats are willing to put the issue ahead of the U.S. military, which has been seriously affected by budget instability.
In the event of a shutdown, troops and some civilians will continue to report to work and accrue pay, but will not receive paychecks during the shutdown.
Mattis said half of his civilian workers would be furloughed, which would impact operations from contracting to military medical facilities.
“There is any number of projects we have underway that keep me at the top of my game and our military at the top of our game that are handled by civilians,” he said.
“It’s got a huge morale impact,” he added. “I’ll just tell you — how long can you keep good people around when something like this happens, is always a question that’s got to hover around in the back of my mind.”
He said intelligence operations would also be impacted.
“I would just tell you that we do a lot of intelligence operations around the world and they cost money. Those obviously would stop,” he said.
Troops themselves would also be impacted, Mattis said. While active duty troops would continue to report for duty during a shutdown, reservists would not report for duty For example, he said, “this morning or last night young guys and gals somewhere in Wyoming were driving off to do their weekend duty.”
“Those troops will arrive there at their armories, by the way, and told go home if there’s a government shutdown, and they will then drive a couple hundred miles back home. These again are stoic men and women, they’ll suck it up and say okay,” he said.
“And I would just tell you that training for almost our entire reserve force will stop and you must understand the critical importance of our reserves,” he said.
He called reserve troops the “only shock absorber” the U.S. military has.
“It’s not like the old days where you could draft somebody in and 18 weeks later have them in combat with the skills they need.
“Today’s infantrymen, they’re called infantrymen because they’re infant solders, young soldiers. They still take a year to train in order to have them ready to use the gear they have on them and make certain they have the ethical and tactical abilities to deal with the battlefield today,” he said.
“So it’s got a terrible impact.”
Chief Pentagon Spokesperson Dana White tweeted on Friday:
“The government shutdown is destructive and puts unnecessary stress on the already stressful jobs of our service members. Time to put the money where the votes are and write the check! #FY18budget #PassTheBudget.”