How a Government Shutdown Impacts Military Family Services

Casey Cooper, grocery manager for the Arnold Air Force Base Commissary, scans an item while fulfilling an order in the Commissary CLICK2GO system, at Arnold Air Force Base, Tenn.
Even if commissaries remain open, they may not receive new shipments or restock shelves. Your best bet is to stock up on groceries, especially if you rely on the commissary for your food.

An especially contentious fight in Congress this year threatens to plunge the United States into yet another damaging government shutdown, potentially as soon as the end of September when last year's funding expires.

This would have major repercussions for the services on which military families rely. Here's what you need to know.


Although active-duty troops (and Guard and reservists on active-duty orders) are expected to show up for work during a shutdown, they do not get paid unless Congress passes a separate piece of legislation to do so.

As of Sept. 22, 2023, Congress had no clear path to passing a defense budget, threatening troop paychecks.

Read More: How a Government Shutdown Impacts Military Pay, Benefits


During the January 2019 government shutdown, military families about to make a permanent change of station (PCS) move or troops preparing for temporary travel (TDY) had their travel put on hold. In 2021, families and troops were again warned that PCS moves would be delayed. If the government shuts down this time around, expect the same results.

Medical Care

For on-base medical care: Unless it's an emergency or an inpatient hospital service, your appointment is probably going to be canceled. Give your clinic a buzz to be sure or watch for specific information from your local base.

For off-base medical care: You won't be affected. All Tricare functions will continue without interruption.

Read More: How Does a Government Shutdown Affect Health Care For Military Service Members and Veterans?

DoDEA Schools

If your child attends a Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) school on base, classes will still be in session, but extracurricular activities, including sports, will be canceled.

Child Care

If your child goes to day care at an on-base Child Development Center (CDC), you'll want to check for closures. Some centers will remain open, while others will likely close on a case-by-case basis, officials said. The best thing to do is call.


In the event of a lapse in appropriations, military commissaries worldwide will remain open and fully operational for up to 60 days, or until the funds to run them are exhausted, the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) said in a statement released Sept. 28, 2023.

The agency’s 235 stores serve the military community in 13 countries worldwide.

Shoppers can keep up to date on their specific commissary in the "Store Information & Holiday Hours" box on the commissary website.

"The Defense Department recognizes how significant the commissary benefit is for our military's wellbeing and quality of life, and we are committed to doing everything possible to minimize the impact of any budget decisions on our patrons,” John Hall, DeCA director and CEO, said. “We will do our best to support our military communities whenever and wherever possible."

Just as in past shutdowns, DeCA advised that overseas commissaries, plus any located in remote U.S. locations "where no other sources of food are reasonably available for military personnel," will remain open during a government shutdown.

During the 2013 shutdown, U.S. commissaries remained open for one day to sell perishable items like produce, dairy and meat. The stores were supposed to remain closed for the rest of the shutdown, but they began reopening after about a week because of an interpretation that the Pay Our Military Act also applied to civilians.


Because of the way the Exchange system is funded, those stores are not impacted by a government shutdown. That means gas stations and shoppettes, as well as the main stores, will stay open for the duration of any shutdown.

MWR Activities

Whether a given Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) program is open is going to depend on how it's funded. The best thing to do is to check with your local base to see whether the service you want to use is available during the shutdown. For example, many base libraries closed during past shutdowns, but some base bowling alleys remained open.

Family Advocacy & Family Support Centers

Whether or not these are open will vary by base. Check with your local installation for how things are going to operate where you are.

Military OneSource

All Military OneSource programs, including career and non-medical counseling, will continue. That's because those services are paid by an already funded contract.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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