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Military Bases Brace for Possible Gov't Shutdown

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
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    In the event of a government shutdown, military families would be among the Texas' most affected.

    Starlite Dye, wife of a Navy sailor raising two boys on Lackland Air Force Base, isn't worried about herself if the federal government shuts down and military paychecks are cut in half. But there are plenty of others on her mind, she said Thursday.

    "I'm worried for some of our young sailor families," said Dye, the Texas director of Blue Star Families, which provides support and resources for military families. "It's got to be a serious situation for them. It is a serious situation."

    The threat of a federal government shutdown by midnight Friday made both military families and civilians anxious in San Antonio and El Paso, where large military installations rank each city among the nation's highest of those with federal employees.

    Military families would be among the most affected in Texas if the Republican-led U.S. House and President Barack Obama fail to reach a deal on a new budget. Federal enforcement along the Texas-Mexico border would continue as normal, with Border Patrol, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, and similar frontline agents exempt from the shutdown.

    Texas has two of the nation's busiest federal court districts, the Western and Southern, but the federal judiciary stated this week that it can use non-appropriated fees to keep courtrooms open for two weeks.

    Harder hit would be the International Boundary and Water Commission. Based in El Paso, the agency operates dams that deliver water into Mexico, in addition to running hydroelectric and wastewater treatment plants along the border. A skeleton crew would keep those operations running but that the vast majority of the agency's 267 employees would be furloughed, spokeswoman Sally Spener said.

    At Lackland and Fort Sam Houston, officials were determining the essential personnel who would need to stay on the job in the event of a shutdown, spokesman Brent Boller said Thursday. There are around 30,000 civilians at San Antonio's military installations.

    "Most of the services would continue but be greatly curtailed," Boller said.

    In El Paso, officials at Fort Bliss said about 3,500 federal employees could be affected if there's a shutdown.

    Defense Secretary Robert Gates told troops in Iraq on Thursday that if the government closes, their next paycheck would be for half the normal amount and they wouldn't receive a check at all the following pay period if the shutdown continued. Gates told them they could expect to get paid eventually for all their work.

    Credit unions, popular among many military families, were preparing to help float service members until their paychecks return to normal. San Antonio-based Air Force Federal Credit Union, which has about 40,000 members, said it would offer provisional credit and adjusted loan payments to those on active duty.

    "We're sort of morally indebted to them," executive vice president Bob Sherwood said.

    At Lackland, Dye thought the same thing while hoping that a compromise would be reached. Dye, herself a Navy veteran, said she was concerned about where she would direct families for resources if bases begin curtailing services.

    She has heard about parents worried about their deployed children's bank accounts and that "a lot of people" on the base are having high anxiety over what might happen.

    "If 1 percent of the population is going to get paid to do their job, this is that 1 percent who should get paid," Dye said.