NEW ORLEANS — U.S. Coast Guard Sector Mobile, whose area of responsibility stretches from the Louisiana-Alabama border across the Florida Panhandle, including the central Gulf of Mexico, is cutting back on some of its missions and furloughing civilian employees as a partial shutdown of the federal government continues.
All uniformed Coast Guard personnel in small-boat stations in Destin, Pensacola and Panama City are continuing to report to work, even though they are not being paid. At the same time, a number of the civilian employees in Sector Mobile have been furloughed, according to Petty Officer 3rd Class Travis Magee, a spokesman for Coast Guard District 8 in New Orleans.
The Coast Guard is among America's military services, but because it operates under the Department of Homeland Security, rather than the Department of Defense — which is funded, and unaffected by the shutdown — its personnel, both uniformed and civilian, remain at risk of not getting paid. A stopgap measure allowed for the issuance of checks to Coast Guard personnel on Dec. 31, but Coast Guard officials have warned there is no guarantee that they will receive a Jan. 15 paycheck.
Sector Mobile, whose units include seven Coast Guard cutters stationed in the Alabama cities of Mobile and Demopolis and the Florida cities of Pensacola and Panama City, will be conducting its homeland security, search and rescue, law enforcement, environmental and property protection missions for the foreseeable future, Magee said.
But, according to Magee, the Coast Guard is cutting back on maintenance of navigational aids, inspections of recreational watercraft to ensure adequate safety equipment is aboard, and issuance of various forms of documentation to merchant vessels.
And, Magee added, even the missions the Coast Guard now are fully performing might have to be cut back, depending on how long the government shutdown continues.
Currently, Magee said, mission decisions are being made on "a case-by-case basis with individual units." But, he added, "we don't know ho long the shutdown will last." The longer the shutdown continues, Magee said, the harder it will be for the Coast Guard to maintain its full range of missions, including homeland security and other critical duties.
The shutdown, affecting about a quarter of the federal government, entered its 12th day Wednesday.