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Troops Concerned Over Possible Government Default

Concern over the debt ceiling is spreading far beyond Capital Hill.

Now, the question of “what if” has some soldiers and military families worried about paying the bills.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said soldiers are paid every two weeks. They are guaranteed a check on Aug. 1, but the next pay day on the 15th would be in jeopardy.

As Congress works to ensure the United States can continue paying its bills, America’s highest-ranking military official spent the weekend fielding questions from soldiers, who are concerned they might not be able to pay their own.

“One of the concerns young men and women expressed to me on this trip is: ‘Here we are halfway around the world, fighting our country’s wars, and I’ve got to worry about a paycheck,'” said Mullen to reporters on Sunday.

If no agreement is reached on the U.S. debt ceiling, and the government defaults, it’s unclear whether pay checks will be sent out to federal employees, social security beneficiaries, and active-duty soldiers.

On a five day tour of Afghanistan, Mullen told troops he doesn’t know.

“I wish I had an answer,” said Mullen. “I certainly hope it gets solved.”

Last Friday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta issued a statement on the Department of Defense website reminding all personnel to come to work as usual this week.

He said “as secretary of defense, you have my commitment that I will do everything possible to ensure that our national defense is protected.”

But default aside, cuts to defense spending have been presented as a way to help balance the federal budget.

The White House set a goal in April to reduce $400 billion over the next 12 years, while others in Congress have suggested slashing more than $800 billion.

“I think if they were to exceed $400 billion, we would start to have to make some fundamental changes in the capability of the Marine Corps,” said Gen. Joseph Dunford, Asst. Commandant of the Marine Corps.

Beverly McLendon with the Idaho Falls Family Assistance Center said many local military families rely on this paycheck as their only income. She said even a delay could be devastating.

Sunday morning on NBC’s Meet the Press, White House political advisor David Plouffe said the Treasury Dept. will make sure troops are paid.

According to published reports, it’s not a matter of “if,” but “when.”

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