OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Clock runs down on shutdown

That comes on top of the civilian furloughs that hit the Pentagon this year as a result of the sequestration budget cuts.

Top Pentagon officials are in “triage mode” as the department scrambles to adjust to the reality of a shutdown, Pentagon Comptroller Bob Hale said last week.

In addition to civilian furloughs, the Pentagon will curtail day-to-day military operations and bring new contracts to a halt.

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At the VA, much of the workforce is protected thanks to a 2009 law that funds veterans’ healthcare with advanced appropriations. Roughly 14,000 of the VA’s workforce of 330,000 would face furloughs.

But compensation, pension and other benefits that the VA pays out could be disrupted if a shutdown lasts one month or longer.

VA spokeswoman Victoria Dillon said that claims processing and payments would be able to continue through late October.

"However, in the event of a prolonged shutdown, claims processing and payments in these programs would be suspended as available funding is exhausted," she said.

The government is set to shut down on Tuesday unless a funding measure is passed. 

Senate spares military pay: As Congress prepares for a government shutdown, the Senate approved legislation to make sure paychecks for U.S. service members will get paid on time. 

House members passed the "Pay Our Military Act" over the weekend, with the Senate following suit on Monday. 

The bill appropriates funds to pay the military at any time in 2014 when appropriations are not in effect, such as during a government shutdown. It also allows the government to keep paying civilian personnel and contractors that the Defense Department deems to be helping the military. 

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) passed the bill through a unanimous consent agreement.

"Our nation’s military should not suffer for Congress’ inability to pass a budget that represents the demands of the American people," said Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.).

The measure now heads to President Obama's desk for his signature.

"Our troops have endured three devastating rounds of defense cuts, fiscal uncertainty, and massive force reductions. ... It is my sincere hope that the President signs the bipartisan bill at the earliest opportunity," House Armed Services Committee chief Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said Monday. 

Prior to the bill's passage, service members would continue to work in the event of a shutdown, paychecks delayed until the shutdown ends.

Pay for civilians who are furloughed would come only if Congress passed a law approving it, Pentagon press secretary George Little said last week.

Navy Yard hearing postponed due to shutdown: The government shutdown has also prompted a Senate panel to postpone what was scheduled as the first congressional hearing on the Navy Yard shooting.

The Senate Homeland Security Committee said its Navy Yard hearing slated for Tuesday morning would be postponed “due to the impending government shutdown.”

The panel, chaired by Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), had called the hearing to examine security clearances and background checks, which came under scrutiny in the aftermath of the shooting and the details about the shooter, former Navy reservist Aaron Alexis.

The committee did not have to postpone the hearing, as Congress will be open, but lawmakers can only keep skeleton staffs of “excepted” employees — or what used to be termed “essential” — in a shutdown.

Other panels are planning to go on with their hearings. There were more than a half-dozen still on the Tuesday schedule as of Monday evening. 

Top generals fired for deadly Afghan attack: Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos has fired two of his top generals for failing to protect a key allied base in Afghanistan from a deadly Taliban attack. 

Amos relieved Maj. Gens. Charles Gurganus and Gregg Sturdevant for critical security gaps at Camp Bastion in southern Afghanistan, which led to a devastating Taliban attack against the base last September. 

"The Commandant has asked both generals, in spite of long and distinguished careers, to retire," according to a Marine Corps statement issued Monday. 

The order is the first time since the Vietnam War that a top American commander was fired for failing to protect U.S. forces in combat. 

Gurganus, who was the top service commander in the region at the time of the attack, “failed to exercise the level of judgment expected of commanders of their rank,” Amos said in the statement. 

The three-star general "made an error in judgment when conducting his risk assessment of the enemy’s capabilities and intentions" during his time in command at the U.K.-run Camp Bastion and the adjoining Marine Corps base, dubbed Camp Leatherneck.  

Several Taliban gunmen, wearing U.S. Army uniforms, launched a daring suicide attack against Camp Bastion, the United Kingdom's largest military outpost in southern Afghanistan in September 2012. 

American and NATO troops were able to kill all but one of the attackers and repel the Taliban assault, but not before the attackers were able to overrun the base's outer perimeter and destroy six AV-8B Harrier fighter jets stationed at Bastion. 

Two U.S. Marines, Lt. Col. Christopher Raible and Sgt. Bradley Atwell, were killed and eight others were wounded in the brazen attack. 


In Case You Missed It: 

— Afghan pullout will be tougher than Iraq, says general 

— Pentagon panel pushes back on commander control of sexual assault cases 

— Shutdown an "unnecessary distraction" for Pentagon, says Hagel 

— Vets benefits could be disrupted under shutdown 


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