With America in the grips of its first government shutdown in 17 years, President Barack Obama promised U.S. troops and Defense Department staff early Tuesday that he will fight for them and declared that they "deserve better than the dysfunction we're seeing in Congress."
“Unfortunately, Congress has not fulfilled its responsibility,” Obama said in a video message broadcast on Armed Forces Television. “It has failed to pass a budget and, as a result, much of our government must now shut down until Congress funds it again.”
Obama recorded the address late Monday but was broadcast after the midnight deadline to avert a shutdown. He did not directly blame House Republicans, whose insistence on rolling back his signature health care law as the price for funding the government slammed into Senate Democrats push for a “clean” spending measure.
“Those of you in uniform will remain on your normal duty status. The threats to our national security have not changed, and we need you to be ready for any contingency,” the president said. “If you’re serving in harm’s way, we’re going to make sure you have what you need to succeed in your missions.”
The president noted that he had signed legislation to make sure that troops get paid in the event of a shutdown – but that Defense Department civilians face “more uncertainty, including possible furloughs.”
“You and your families deserve better than the dysfunction we’re seeing in Congress,” he said. “Your talents and dedication help keep our military the best in the world. That’s why I’ll keep working to get Congress to reopen our government and get you back to work as soon as possible.”
Obama also warned that, with U.S. forces out of Iraq and due to depart Afghanistan by the end of 2014, military budgets “will be leaner.”
But he vowed to replace across-the-board spending cuts known as “sequestration” with “a responsible approach that deals with our fiscal challenges and keeps our military and our economy strong.”