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Coast Guard Members May End Up Getting Paid Despite The Government Shutdown
Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan said Wednesday he's won White House and bipartisan support for a bill to pay the nation's Coast Guard personnel during the shutdown.
He called the service members the hardest-hit of federal employees affected by the unprecedented lapse in government funding.
"I just got out of a fairly lengthy meeting with the president in the Oval Office," Sullivan said. "We talked about this, and he said he's supportive of the bill."
"We're making progress," he said.
Sullivan pushed for the bill's passage in a speech on the Senate floor Tuesday, the same day Coast Guard personnel nationwide missed their first paycheck during the closure.
"As you know, the partial government shutdown is negatively impacting federal workers, but none, none more so than the brave men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard," said Sullivan, chair of the Senate Commerce subcommittee on Security, with jurisdiction over the Coast Guard.
He said the bill would cover more than 41,000 active-duty Coast Guard personnel and retirees. About 1,908 active-duty Coast Guardsmen work in Alaska. The Coast Guard falls under the Department of Homeland Security, one of nine departments whose funding lapsed, but Coast Guard personnel are deemed essential and are working without pay.
The measure is not enough, said Dave Owens, Alaska representative for the American Federation of Government Employees union.
Sullivan and the Alaska delegation need to end the partial government shutdown now so all 800,000 affected federal employees get paid, Owens said.
More than 5,000 federal workers in Alaska, not counting the Coast Guard personnel, missed their first paycheck on Friday in a record-long shutdown that has dragged on close to a month, he said. Like the Coast Guardsmen, many of those federal employees are working without pay, such as forecasters with the National Weather Service.
Civilian workers with the Coast Guard weren't covered in the latest bill draft on Wednesday afternoon. Owens said that will hurt many Alaskans who work alongside Coast Guard military personnel, including a large group of firefighters supporting activities at the Coast Guard base in Kodiak.
"They're all Alaskans, and the last time I checked the senator represents Alaskans," Owens said.
"This is insane," Owens said of a shutdown with no end in sight.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski said Wednesday on Twitter there's no reason the Coast Guard or any of the nation's federal workers should "be held hostage due to a political dispute." She said she'll keep working to end the shutdown.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is working to pass the bill, she tweeted Tuesday.
Senate Democratic leaders also support it, Sullivan said.
He said the cross-aisle support for the bill could be a template for a broader effort to end the shutdown.
The president recognizes the unique situation the Coast Guard faces, he said.
"The Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Marines are all out there risking their lives for our nation," Sullivan said in his floor speech, referencing military branches funded by the still-open Department of Defense. "We greatly appreciate that. And guess what. They are getting paid to do it, as they should be. But the Coast Guard members are also out there risking their lives, especially in my state."
"By the way, if they want to just go quit, they are going to be court-martialed. That is different than other federal service," Sullivan said.
Sullivan has said he supports Trump's effort to expand the border wall with $5.7 billion in funding -- the catalyst for the impasse with Democrats. The senator said last week greater border security is needed to stop a "humanitarian crisis" that's tied to the nation's opioid epidemic and "evil" human traffickers who lead children into "lives of hell."
Sullivan said the nonpayment of Coast Guard members was apparently the first time that military service members weren't paid during a shutdown.
"We need to treat all members of the military, all five branches, the same: pay, retirement, shutdowns," Sullivan said on the floor.
Sitka resident Sarah Lamb, a wife and mother of active-duty Coast Guard members, said Wednesday her family will be happy for the paycheck if it comes.
But she feels for all federal workers who aren't being paid. Her family used their last paychecks to pre-pay bills, "biting" into savings. Others have it harder, and she's working with Coast Guard officials in Sitka to find help for federal employees in need.
A GoFundMe page was created Sunday to buy food for Coast Guard employees in Alaska towns.
"They need to get this figured out," she said of Congress.
©2019 the Alaska Dispatch News (Anchorage, Alaska). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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KABUL/WASHINGTON/PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - The United States and the Taliban will sign an agreement on Feb. 29 at the end of a week long period of violence reduction in Afghanistan, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Taliban said on Friday.
Large cargo ships, small fishing boats and other watercraft sail safely past Naval Station Norfolk every day, but there's always a possibility that terrorists could use any one of them to attack the world's largest naval base.
While Navy security keeps a close eye on every vessel that passes, there's an inherent risk for the sailors aboard small patrol boats who are tasked with helping keep aircraft carriers, submarines and destroyers on base safe from waterborne attacks.
So the Navy experimented Wednesday to test whether an unmanned vessel could stop a small boat threatening the base from the Elizabeth River.
In the wee hours of Jan. 8, Tehran retaliated over the U.S. killing of Iran's most powerful general by bombarding the al-Asad air base in Iraq.
Among the 2,000 troops stationed there was U.S. Army Specialist Kimo Keltz, who recalls hearing a missile whistling through the sky as he lay on the deck of a guard tower. The explosion lifted his body - in full armor - an inch or two off the floor.
Keltz says he thought he had escaped with little more than a mild headache. Initial assessments around the base found no serious injuries or deaths from the attack. U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted, "All is well!"
The next day was different.
"My head kinda felt like I got hit with a truck," Keltz told Reuters in an interview from al-Asad air base in Iraq's western Anbar desert. "My stomach was grinding."
A video has emerged showing a U.S. military vehicle running a Russian armored truck off the road in Syria after it tried to pass an American convoy.
Questions still remain about the incident, to include when it occurred, though it appears to have taken place on a stretch of road near the Turkish border town of Qamishli, according to The War Zone.
Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.
We are women veterans who have served in the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. Our service – as aviators, ship drivers, intelligence analysts, engineers, professors, and diplomats — spans decades. We have served in times of peace and war, separated from our families and loved ones. We are proud of our accomplishments, particularly as many were earned while immersed in a military culture that often ignores and demeans women's contributions. We are veterans.
Yet we recognize that as we grew as leaders over time, we often failed to challenge or even question this culture. It took decades for us to recognize that our individual successes came despite this culture and the damage it caused us and the women who follow in our footsteps. The easier course has always been to tolerate insulting, discriminatory, and harmful behavior toward women veterans and service members and to cling to the idea that 'a few bad apples' do not reflect the attitudes of the whole.
Recent allegations that Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie allegedly sought to intentionally discredit a female veteran who reported a sexual assault at a VA medical center allow no such pretense.