By Staff Reports
(Victor Valley)– Rep. Paul Cook (R-Yucca Valley) participated in a House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee Hearing on the “Pay Our Military Act,” concerning the Department of Defense’s (DoD) troubling decision to furlough hundreds of thousands of key civilian employees despite being authorized by Congress to keep them on the job.
Last week, Congress passed the “Pay Our Military Act,” which gave the Secretary of Defense broad latitude to decide which DoD civilians would be exempt from furloughs during a government shutdown. The law was also intended to ensure funding for the Armed Forces (including active duty reserves). Initially, Secretary Hagel had interpreted the law narrowly resulting in significant furloughs. However, over the weekend, Secretary Hagel changed course and as a result, he re-ordered many furloughed workers back on the job. Nevertheless, Secretary Hagel’s new interpretation of the law leaves thousands of DoD employees out of work, jeopardizing national security.
Cook has voiced concerns that the “Pay Our Military Act” does not do enough and leaves too much uncertainty regarding which defense workers are essential in the event of a government shutdown. As a result, Cook introduced H.R. 3232, the “Support Our Armed Forces Act” which would ensure that that all Department of Defense employees would stay on the job during any government shutdowns during this fiscal year.
Cook’s “Support Our Armed Forces Act” extends pay during a shutdown to the National Guard, Reservists, dual service Technicians, and all civilian Department of Defense employees and contractors. It has gained the support of the National Guard Association of the United States.
In questioning Jessica Wright, the Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, Cook asked what personnel were covered in the Pay Our Military Act.
Wright responded that the National Guard and Reserve were not in included in in the “Pay Our Military Act” and their furloughs “will affect their readiness and that will affect their morale.”
Cook concluded his remarks saying, “I cannot accept on my watch a DoD or military that is not combat ready.”
After the hearing, Cook remained convinced that his bill is necessary to ensure military readiness. Cook said, “My bill is about filling in the gaps to protect our national security. Government’s first duty is to protect the people it serves. Sequestration has already made this a challenge. The previous bill, passed last week, was a step in the right direction, but it leaves some uncertainty regarding which defense workers are essential in the event of a shutdown. My bill finishes the job by explicitly mandating that all those who provide vital support for our troops’ mission will continue working to protect our national security.”
Cook’s bill already has garnered widespread bi-partisan support from members in the House including House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA), House GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN), Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME), Rep. Filemon Vela (D-TX), and Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV).
A member of the House Armed Services, Foreign Affairs, Veterans’ Affairs Committees, Cook served as an infantry officer and retired after 26 years as a Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. During his time in combat, he was awarded the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.