On October 1, 2013, the President of the United States ordered the Office of Management and Budget to shut down the Federal Government. In addition to hundreds of government employees being furloughed and the Panda Cam being shut down (gasp!), our national security and intelligence apparatus is affected in ways that could hurt us both in the present and down the road. The United States’ national security and intelligence agencies will be operating with less staff, and the risk of an attack or other national security incident will go up, according to officials and experts.
Defense and intelligence agencies will have to prioritize during a shutdown. For example, intelligence analysts working on Syria and Afghanistan will probably continue to do what they are doing, but routine intelligence gathering related to a country not in crisis may be set aside. That could mean that if a crisis were to pop up in a country that we are not paying particular attention to, our assets would almost be immediately be handicapped.
Intelligence community employees who remain on the job will be stretched to the limit and forced to focus only on our country’s most critical security needs. Officials say that about 70 percent of all intelligence personnel have been forced to take unpaid leave, including over 960 with Ph.D.s, 4,000 computer scientists and 1,000 mathematicians.
Other experts said the real damage to national security is that top employees will flee the dysfunctional environment of the federal workforce in favor of more stable and perhaps greener pastures. “The threat here in terms of national security is more of a long term one,” said New York University Law Professor David Kamin, a former top OMB official. “You’ll see a degradation in the employees’ motivation and in the agencies’ ability to recruit. These are employees already being effected by furlough brought under the sequester. They’ve already taken a pay cut (from the sequester). I would worry about the long term health of some of these very important agencies.” The overall environment of not knowing what will happen in a federal agency would make the idea of working in the private sector much more appealing.
On Wednesday, October 2, 2013, Defense of National Intelligence Director James Clapper testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss the effects of the shutdown on our intelligence gathering capabilities and our counter terrorism efforts. “Our nation needs people like this and the way we treat them is to tell them, ‘you need to go home because we can’t afford to pay you.’ This is a dreamland for foreign intelligence services to recruit.”