State Sen. Matt Smith (D-Allegheny/Washington) has sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to illustrate the impact of a federal government shutdown on reservists in the Pennsylvania National Guard, U.S. Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) and U.S. Army Reserve.
Smith represents the Pittsburgh IAP Air Reserve Station, which is home to the U.S. AFRC’s 911th Airlift Wing and Pennsylvania Air National Guard’s 171st Air Refueling Wing. Smith also represents the installations of the McGarity Army Reserve Center located in Moon Township.
“I urge Secretary Hagel to put our military technicians and Department of Defense personnel back to work and back on the payroll as soon as possible,” Smith said in a released statement. “These individuals not only protect our Commonwealth and nation overseas, they provide vital support at home with their response to domestic concerns, national disasters, and overall military readiness.”
Smith’s letter urges Sec. Hagel to interpret the Pay Our Military Act in the broadest terms. The federal bill was unanimously passed in the lead up to the government shutdown to ensure that military members, including civilian employees, would be paid for their service.
“Members of Congress, who can agree on little else, came together to specifically ensure that all military members, including reservists, be paid in the event of a government shutdown,” Smith said. “It is clear that these individuals are essential personnel and furloughing creates an unacceptable additional hardship for these brave men and women and their families.”
Below is the text of Smith's letter, sent on Oct. 4:
Dear Secretary Hagel:
As the State Senator for Pennsylvania’s 37th Senatorial District, I have the distinct pleasure and honor to represent several military installations and thousands of members of the U.S. Armed Services in the Pennsylvania Senate. I have witnessed firsthand the exemplary service, commitment to duty, cost effectiveness and enhanced readiness of the Army Reserve units located within the T/Sgt. Vernon McGarity Army Reserve Center and the Pennsylvania Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve components of the Pittsburgh IAP Air Reserve Station. These units are vital to our regional and national security, and should remain fully operational despite the current shutdown of the federal government.
It is my understanding that the Pay Our Military Act was passed in a bipartisan manner with the intention to ensure, unconditionally, that the members of our military and civilian support personnel would be paid during a government shutdown. Therefore, I was deeply disturbed to hear that some of my constituents who serve as both uniformed service members and civilian Department of Defense (DOD) personnel have been furloughed as a result of the federal government shutdown. The legislation, as written, makes no distinction between active duty service members, reserve components, and the civilian employees who support their efforts.
The Pay Our Military Act grants you the authority to prevent the furlough of military technicians and civilian support personnel if you determine that they support the activities of the Armed Forces. I believe it is clear that the men and women of the Pittsburgh IAP Air Reserve Station and McGarity Army Reserve Center meet these criteria, and I respectfully urge you to use your authority under the Pay Our Military Act to return them to work. Those who have been furloughed are vital components of the Nation’s defense and preventing them from serving in this capacity will diminish their capability and readiness to fulfill that mission.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.