While it is impossible to foresee all of the national security implications of the government shutdown, what is clear is that they exist, and may continue long after our leaders break through their current stalemate.
First, just because the government has shut down does not mean those looking to harm us have shut down their operations, too.
When the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified last week that the shutdown “seriously damages” our nation’s security, we must pay attention. He claims that approximately 70 percent of intelligence officials are furloughed, but the threats that emerge from the shutdown are abundant: whether due to lack of coordination, caused by those not allowed to do their important jobs; or the possible recruitment by our adversaries of a particularly disaffected laid off worker.
The Bipartisan Policy Center’s recent report, Jihadist Terror: A Threat Assessment, highlights the evolving threat facing our nation. From cyber attacks to online radicalization, the methods and motives of those targeting our nation continue to morph.
In order to prevent attacks, a coordinated, thorough and globally-oriented approach is required by our intelligence apparatus. This is simply impossible to achieve with only 30 percent staffing of their operations. Perhaps more chilling is the lag time that will follow even when 100 percent of workers are back on the job. Information not gathered or analyzed during the shutdown may one day prove to be the critical component to an attack that could have and should have been stopped.
With al-Qaeda and its affiliates in more countries than ever and an intelligence community already stretched thin, our country can ill afford to curtail intelligence efforts.