The Safety Impact of the Partial Government Shutdown

The safety impact of the partial government shutdown, which began on December 22, 2018, continues to grow. Even though the shutdown only affects 25 percent of government functions and services, few Americans will be spared at least some of its ramifications. One of the (many) widespread ripples of the partial government shutdown is its safety impact.

For Americans not among the 800,000 federal employees who are either furloughed or who continue to work without being paid, life may go on as usual – for now. But among those who are not currently collecting a paycheck for their federal jobs are those who do the work of keeping us safe.

Thousands of Secret Service agents are required to continue working without pay. Among their responsibilities are protecting the president and vice president and their families, as well as protecting former U.S. presidents. Visiting foreign heads of state also require the protection of U.S. Secret Service agents.

According to many in the Secret Service, agents are angry and full of anxiety about the shutdown.

“They are asking you to put your life on the line and not paying you — it’s ridiculous. Morale is a serious issue,” said 20-year Secret Service agent Donald Mihalek, who has served during the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations. “This is an incredibly stressful job that requires your full attention, and if you are standing there thinking about your mortgage, or your credit card bills, or the fact that you are burning through your savings, you are distracted, you’re not able to give 100 percent.”

The Secret Service protects 42 people in the Trump administration alone. According to The New York Times, Randolph Alles, the current director of the U.S. Secret Service agency, said in 2017 that “the sprawling Trump entourage was putting unprecedented strains on his agents, in terms of staffing and budgeting.” The shutdown only adds strain to an already over-burdened agency.

Though protection by the U.S. Secret Service may not directly impact most Americans, the safety impact of the partial government shutdown is evident in other ways. Corrections officers at federal prisons are also currently working without a paycheck, as are many agents at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and many members of the U.S. Coast Guard.

At U.S. airports, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers are also required to come to work, though they’re not getting paid. Many have called in sick, and/or are looking for other work. The resulting understaffing, as well as lowered morale, is causing delay at major airports, as well as posing clear national security risks.

As of January 15, the partial government shutdown – now the longest in U.S. history – will be at day 25. While federal law enforcement and safety employees do their best to either continue working without compensation or navigate a furlough, bank accounts are draining, morale is plummeting, federal employees’ families are paying the price, and – what impacts us all – the safety impact of the partial government shutdown continues to become more of a threat.

Flight attendants say government shutdown threatening airline safety |
Global News [2019-01-10]

Federal workers’ paychecks on hold as partial government shutdown looms | Fox News [2019-01-10]

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