On the surface, Maj. Gen. Gregory J. Vadnais says the end of the National Guard's unpaid furlough is welcome news. But you don't have to look hard to see the worst side effects of the federal government's shutdown could still be coming.
"I think there is this sense that if we were to listen to the news, you would think that we are good, and that in fact is not true," Vadnais said to a full house of employees Tuesday. "All the services are under great stress, and I would tell you that readiness absolutely, unequivocally is being degraded. You can't shut dollars off and have it not impact readiness."
Congress passed a bill over the weekend that puts back to work National Guard technicians -- the people who support the soldiers on the front lines. Nine-hundred employees statewide returned to their posts Tuesday. The catch is that they will be working without pay until the shutdown is resolved.
"I think there's a profound sense of relief that they have been called back," said Col. Tim Houchlei, director of human resources for the Michigan National Guard. "They understand they are not receiving a paycheck as of now and they are aware there is an IOU by the federal government that they will indeed be compensated.
"The great unknown is they don't know when."
That unknown is continuing to cause stress among technicians, particularly those like Spc. Eric Bandy, who says it will be a struggle to feed his family of five.
"It's great to know in theory that once everything is cleared that we're going to get paid," he said. "But it's that time period between now and when we finally do get paid that creates a lot of uncertainty because it doesn't fix immediate issues that come up. How am I going to make car payments, house payments, pay my grocery bill?"
And though the employees are returning to work, the operations and management budget remains suspended, meaning fuel and parts for equipment, for example, is remains frozen.
"We're going to have to be judicious in the resources that we do have and we've got to be innovative so that we're spending the time we are at work productively," said Vadnais. "I would ask each and every one of you if you would go about your daily tasks to be sure to be as frugal as can be because we don't know how long this thing is going to go on."
The longer it does go on, the more detrimental the effects could be. Vadnais said the Guard has enough money to run for ten days.
"We could have another train wreck in ten days if we don't sort this out," he said. "I'm not trying to be a fear monger, but everybody needs to understand the dilemma and the pickle that we are in."
But Vadnais did his best to keep spirits high, reminding the technicians of their importance, adding it's good that the challenging time has been bestowed on a group accustomed to coping with difficulties on the job.
"I will tell you that even though these are trying times, the state and your nation still depends on you," he said. "They still depend on us and it's important that we still maintain a capability and a level of responsiveness in the event of a bad day in our state and nation that we are there and available.
"We're going to work our way through this."