The Coast Guard's top admiral said Tuesday that members of the armed forces should not be expected to shoulder the burden of the partial government shutdown, citing the "anxiety and stress" it is causing military families as their pay is withheld.
Adm. Karl Schultz, the Coast Guard commandant, said that he is heartened by the outpouring of support Coast Guard personnel have received across the country but expects more.
"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 said, speaking on a video posted to his Twitter account.
The comments marked the admiral's most forceful remarks about the shutdown since it began 32 days ago amid a dispute over President Donald Trump's demands for funding for a southern border wall. While the majority of the U.S. military is part of the Defense Department and has funding, the Department of Homeland Security and its agencies, including the Coast Guard, are affected by the shutdown.
About 41,000 active-duty service members and 2,100 civilians who are considered "essential personnel" are working without a paycheck under the promise they will get back pay when the shutdown is resolved, said Lt. Cmdr. Scott McBride, a service spokesman. That situation grew more urgent Jan. 15, when service members missed a paycheck. An additional 6,000 civilians working for the service are furloughed.
Overall, about 800,000 federal workers are not receiving paychecks amid the shutdown, with nearly half furloughed.
Schultz, appearing alongside the service's top enlisted man, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Jason Vanderhaden, noted that civilian employees will miss another paycheck on Friday and called it a "sobering" situation.
Senior Coast Guard officials and the American public, he said, "stand in awe" of the affected service members' "continued dedication to duty and resilience" and that of their families.
The admiral, in keeping with the military's tradition of not commenting directly on politics, did not blame anyone specific for the shutdown. He and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen are making their case for the service on Capitol Hill, Schultz said.
The Coast Guard has continued to carry out operations across the globe during the shutdown.
On Sunday, the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf departed from Alameda, California, with about 170 people aboard for a deployment to the Pacific that will last up to six months. The Defense Department will reimburse the service for the deployment, but Coast Guard personnel still will not be paid until the shutdown is resolved.
“The crew, like all other [Coast Guard] members, are affected by the lapse of appropriations, and are not being paid,” said Lt. Cmdr. Steve Brickey, a service spokesman. “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.”