Shutdown opens gaps in U.S. safety and security with NSA furlough

The message from the National Security Agency at nsa.gov is: “Due to the government shutdown this site is not being updated.” Photo: National Security Agency headquarters, Fort Meade, Maryland (Wikimedia, Public Domain)

WASHINGTON, October 9, 2013 — The message from the National Security Agency at nsa.gov is: “Due to the government shutdown this site is not being updated.” Is the protection of American lives being updated?

The NSA prevents foreign adversaries from gaining access to sensitive or classified national security information. It also collects, deciphers, and disseminates foreign signals for intelligence and counterintelligence purposes and supports military operations.


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The government shutdown has unfortunately not shut down terrorism. Senator Ted Cruz voiced his concerns recently on the Sean Hannity radio program, Oct 7th. “Last week we had the Director of National Intelligence [James Clapper] and head of the NSA [Gen Keith Alexander] testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The head of the NSA testified that 70 percent of civilian intelligence officers had been furloughed. As a result, we’ve got a serious national security threat to this country – a dream scenario for terrorists and enemies.”

Cruz added, “We’ve got the President’s own appointee – the head of intelligence saying there is a serious national security threat right now this instant - advising the President ‘let’s at least fund the Department of Defense and intelligence community’. The commander in chief is utterly silent.”

Meanwhile, terrorists and other enemies are busy at work, wielding bombs and bullets, chemical weapons, growing nuclear power and plotting to kill.

President Obama and Harry Reid have publicly stated they refuse to negotiate with their Congressional compatriots, until the GOP gives them what they want with no debate or contingencies. This stalled political process has sent thousands of civilian intelligence agents home who work each day intercepting and listening to millions of transmissions to counter plans to hurt Americans.


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Public Affairs from the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) reports that “the specific numbers of personnel furloughed or impacts of the furlough are not being offered for obvious operational security reasons. What are considered essential missions and essential personnel are still operating.”

An unnamed source explained that Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, used a sizable contingency of legal experts to issue guidance about who of the thousands of Department of Defense (DoD) personnel (incl: many NSA employees) would be sent home.

Unclassified documents were released by OSD in answer to questions regarding the furlough. On Oct 5, a statement was issued from Hagel announcing a return to work of an unspecified number of DoD employees. A DoD memorandum outlined the implementation of Pay Our Military Act (POMA), legislation introduced by Republicans in the House of Representatives that led to the call back for some, but not all. According to the source, the reduction of personnel has caused frustration. Handling the media requests, let alone national security, falls on a smaller number of over-stretched workers who can’t really talk about the furlough.

Hagel explained in the POMA guidance that “DoD consulted closely with the Department of Justice, which expressed its view that the law does not permit a blanket recall of all DoD civilians…the law does not allow the Department of Defense to eliminate furloughs for employees whose responsibilities contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities and readiness of service members.”

The morale and well-being of NSA service members was on the mind of NSA head Gen. Alexander during POLITICO’s Cyber 7 forum, Tuesday. Alexander recognized the dedication of NSA employees, “The agency does its job better than anyone else in the world,” he said, “they’re the ones the American people should look up to, not [Edward} Snowden.”

Alexander lamented on the impact of the shutdown on NSA morale,” Some young folks you bring on, you tell them I can’t pay you for the week you were on furlough,” adding, “we’re making it hard for them to stay in government and that’s wrong.” He asks how the government can get good talent when we tell them, “Stay at home”.

The furlough of DOD/NSA personnel resulting from Washington’s bureaucratic standoff is forcing gaps to form in the world’s finest protective shield. How big is this opportunity to our dangerous enemies?

Hagel says, “This has been a very disruptive year for our people- including active-duty, National Guard and Reserve personnel, and DOD civilians and contractors. Many important activities remain curtailed while the shutdown goes on.”

Cruz asks, “Why is an IRS agent’s salary more important than a National Guardsman?” He suggests the position the President and Harry Reid are taking is in his words, “indefensible – radical and extreme. If God forbid there’s an attack on the homeland that intelligence failed to catch because this commander in chief refused to fund our national security - that ought to be beyond partisan politics – yet that is the partisan games they are playing.”

 


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Jeanne McKinney

Jeanne McKinney is an award-winning screenwriter, journalist and a patriot at heart. Her column, “Patriot Profiles”, gives a personal eye-opening view to the amazing men and women who are actively serving and protecting America, earth's beacon of freedom. Experience their harrowing jobs, close-call combat experiences, steel-clad brotherhood, heartbreaking sacrifice and more from the battlefields and training grounds and at home where families have to manage survival. Winner of San Diego Press Club "Excellence in Journalism Award" 1st Place - Military, 2012 and 2013.

 

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