CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Days after the federal government shutdown began, many Department of Defense employees were exempted from required furloughs and are returning to work.
But no one addresses the long-term issues and the significant impact" of military layoffs and funding losses," said Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, adjutant general of the West Virginia National Guard.
Those layoffs have particularly harsh impacts on National Guard units, and their families, stationed around the country in 54 states and territories, Hoyer said at a Tuesday news conference at the Guard's state headquarters at Yeager Airport in Charleston.
Things are getting a little better. "Federal technicians are back to work for us today, except for five people," Hoyer said. "And today, full-time National Guard Operational Support troops are coming back. They were out of work for seven days."
Hoyer said he is working with Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and state legislators to get the "flexibility to move money from the state budget around ... to cover utility costs until we get reimbursed" by the federal government.
But the West Virginia National Guard will face problems, some major, if the government shutdown continues, Hoyer stressed.
Many Guard members, as well as contractors and businesses working with the Guard, have already lost some payments and funding.
Serious problems could include the delay in the delivery of new helicopters and ongoing maintenance for existing airplanes and helicopters.
"We have not flown some for eight days," Hoyer said. "In the Army, if a helicopter sits for a time, it has to be tested before it can be flown. If we have a disaster tomorrow in this state, we will be down helicopters that we can use."
Hoyer said it would be difficult to get mechanics to inspect planes and helicopters because of the shutdown.
"We also don't have the money to pay contractors for medical readiness" in potential disasters, Hoyer said. "And we can't provide needed flu shots."
The federal shutdown is also beginning to affect private businesses, related to National Guard projects.
"We do not have the money to pay contractors and vendors who are finishing construction projects," Hoyer said.
Minor problems may soon include being unable to provide new or replacement personal ID cards to soldiers and veterans in West Virginia.