The Pentagon said Sunday that troops serving overseas can now watch two channels during the shutdown—a news channel and a sports channel.
The Armed Forces Network (AFN), which provides television to troops serving at bases overseas and on ships, announced Friday it would be shut off during the shutdown, since civilians running the network would be furloughed.
However, after word of the decision spread online, the Pentagon announced that it had determined the “operational necessity” of TV and radio broadcasts constituted them as “essential activities, and would keep two of AFN’s eight channels running.
“Two of the eight channels will remain on. The first channel is news. The second channel is sports. AFN programming relies entirely on civilian government employees, who were furloughed at midnight Saturday,” Pentagon Chief Spokesperson Dana White said in a statement Sunday.
She said although sports broadcasting is not an “essential activity” and was stopped to comply with the shutdown, with “minimal manning,” the sports channel could be kept up without incurring any additional cost or manpower.
“Thanks to uniform leadership at AFN, our comptroller and legal team, we were able to turn on one channel based on operational necessity and FY17 funds had already been paid on the contract. The sports channel was turned on because it doesn’t cost any more money or manpower to manage a second channel,” White said.
The shutdown of Armed Forces Network was one of the first manifestations of the shutdown’s affect on troops.
During the shutdown, troops would continue to report for duty, but would not receive a paycheck until after the shutdown ends. If the shutdown lasts longer than February 1, 2018, they will not receive paychecks.
Reserve troops would not report for duty, and therefore would not receive pay or training. Half of the Defense Department’s civilians would be furloughed, and would also not be paid during a shutdown.
White criticized Congress for the shutdown, which occurred after Senate Democrats refused to pass a stopgap spending measure to keep the government running for another several weeks while they worked on a full-year spending measure.
“The shutdown requires us to do a lot of tedious work. Congress needs to pass a budget,” she said.