Welcome to this week’s installment of The Intelligence Brief… the prospect of another U.S. federal government shutdown has many Americans on edge, and that includes top officials within the Department of Defense. This week, we’ll be looking at 1) efforts on Capitol Hill in the midst of the looming shutdown, 2) the DoD’s response and what it could mean for U.S. national security, and 3) what will happen to the U.S. military if a shutdown occurs.
Quote of the Week
“It was already a perfect storm. And now there’s a potential government shutdown.”
– Greg Valliere, policy strategist
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Americans Face Another Potential U.S. Federal Government Shutdown
Thursday morning, chances of a partial shutdown of the U.S. federal government loomed near as the U.S. Senate and House moved forward with conflicting funding plans.
A procedural vote on a stopgap funding bill that has garnered bipartisan support in the chamber was scheduled by the Senate today, as House of Representatives prepared for late sessions on several appropriations bills which “have no chance of becoming law and would not alone prevent a shutdown even if they did,” according to Reuters.
Such a shutdown, if it happens, will be the fourth to have occurred within the last decade.
As many Americans whose employment would be affected by the potential shutdown prepare for the worst, among those who are also raising concerns about the negative impact of a federal government shutdown are top Pentagon officials, who say it could also potentially have grave consequences for U.S. National Security.
The DoD Weighs in on a Possible Government Shutdown
“The Chinese army is not facing a shutdown nor is Russia shutting down its efforts to conquer Ukraine,” read an article that appeared on the DoD’s website this week.
“A shutdown would degrade and impact our operational planning and coordination, impact our more than 800,000 civilians, and severely diminish our ability to recruit and retain quality individuals for military service,” a DoD statement featured in the article read.
Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said this week that all attempts must be made to “avert any kind of effect that a shutdown could have, not just on the Defense Department but throughout the federal government.”
Hicks advised that a continuing resolution, although far from preferable, would be better in the event that lawmakers are able to prevent a complete government shutdown, as it would allow appropriations at levels comparable to the last fiscal year for a limited time to continue.
“As bad as it could be to have a [continuing resolution] — which we always want to avoid — it would be even worse for the defense of the nation to have a shutdown,” Hicks was quoted saying.
Speaking from the Pentagon this week, Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said a shutdown “literally puts the government on a complete standstill.”
“The U.S. military’s going to continue to do its job and protect our national security interests and, you know, of our allies and partners,” Singh said. “When you don’t have your full operating capacity to be able to help with the mission, to be able to conduct an exercise or training, of course, that gets to our national security and readiness,” she added.
What Happens to the DoD if a Government Shutdown Occurs
If a lapse in appropriations occurs, the DoD is still tasked with defending and protecting the nation and conducting its military operations globally. Fortunately, there are mechanisms that will enable the military to continue to function if the shutdown does happen.
White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said this week that U.S. service members would continue reporting for duty—without pay—for the duration of the shutdown, while hundreds of thousands of civilian DoD employees would be furloughed.
The Defense Working Capital Fund would allow for funding to continue for certain activities contained within agencies that include the Defense Information Systems Agency, the Defense Logistics Agency, and the Defense Finance and Accounting Agency. The Defense Commissary Agency would also keep overseas facilities open, although commissaries on the U.S. mainland would still be closed.
However, the DoD’s primary concerns in relation to U.S. national security involve the strategic problems that arise from a government shutdown.
Pointing to funding complications that arise from a shutdown, as well as lost time, DoD officials cited in the article warned that losses incurred for military planning and training during a shutdown could end up being critical, particularly amidst rising tensions with Beijing.
“No amount of funding can make up for lost time,” a portion of a DoD statement read. “A shutdown impacts our ability to outcompete the PRC [People’s Republic of China] — it costs us time as well as money, and money can’t buy back time, especially for lost training events.”
From the economic impact on active duty military personnel and their families, to the closure of facilities that would be of key importance to maintaining national security, a government shutdown will negatively impact virtually all areas of the DoD.
Bottom line, a shutdown “would degrade and impact our operational planning and coordination, impact our more than 800,000 civilians, and severely diminish our ability to recruit and retain quality individuals for military service,” the DOD statement read.
This, in addition to all the other government jobs that would be impacted if a shutdown cannot be avoided, could mean an added layer of trouble awaits the U.S. in the days ahead and during a potentially critical period for U.S. national security.
“So the shutdown is the worst thing that could happen,” Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said this week.
“We’re hoping that Congress can find a way to avert that, but, you know, planning for the worst,” Singh added.