Trump's National Security Shutdown

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In manufacturing what we know to be a fake border “crisis,” President Trump has created a series of national security challenges that have the potential to metastasize into a real crisis. While we continue to focus on the human impact of the shutdown, we cannot forget that it also threatens vital activities and readiness that keep all Americans safe.

To that end, National Security Action has compiled the following illustrative examples of the shutdown’s toll on our national security:

Coast Guard (falls under DHS)

  • Coast Guard employees were told they could have “garage sales” to support themselves and their families during a federal shutdown. [Washington Post, 1/10/19]

  • The Coast Guard saw a nearly fivefold increase in the number of migrants it intercepted off the coast of Southern California in 2018, underscoring the challenge that will remain in stopping illegal migration even if President Trump secures funding for his southern border wall. [Washington Post, 1/14/19]


  • Commerce’s websites with key documents--such as the Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity--are currently offline. [E&E News, 1/10/19] 

Cybersecurity Functions

  • Numerous government websites security certificates have not been renewed, leaving them insecure or inaccessible. [Netcraft, 1/10/19] 

  • Former officials say the shutdown will make it more difficult for the government to recruit and retain the brightest cybersecurity talent. [Washington Post, 1/9/19] 

  • Close to half of the employees within the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) -- which works to help secure the nation's critical infrastructure industries like banking, water, energy and nuclear -- are furloughed. [CNBC, 1/15/19


  • Approximately 84 percent of Justice Department employees are exempt, leaving 95,000 out of 113,000 employees working without pay. [Justice, 1/10/19]

  • The training of state and local officers has stopped as has much of the training of international law enforcement officers.  [Justice, 1/10/19]

  • The National Security Division remains open with attorneys responsible for some of the most sensitive law enforcement investigations underway serving unpaid. [Justice, 1/10/19]


  • Over 80 percent of DHS staff working on intelligence sharing with private industry partners, including to thwart malicious cyber attacks, are furloughed. [Tech Crunch, 1/9/19] 

  • Federal cooperation with states to improve election infrastructure as well as support for private sector cyber resilience have largely ceased since the shutdown began. 

  • Former DHS Undersecretary Suzanne Spaulding said: “The longer the shutdown continues, the more our concern should grow for our country’s cybersecurity protections — it’s natural for adversaries and nation states to see this as an opportunity for cyber mischief.” [The Hill, 1/10/19] 


  • Over 24,000 mission-critical FAA employees are working without pay, and another 17,000 have been furloughed. The shutdown also freezes vital training programs for the already thinning rank of air traffic controllers. [Washington Post, 1/10/19] 

  • Beyond controllers, other safety-critical parts of the aviation workforce are also working without pay, such as the technicians who maintain FAA equipment and TSA's cadre of baggage screeners. According to their union, some baggage screeners have already begun to quit as financial pressures stack up. [Politico, 1/10/19] 


  • Nearly 5,000 special agents, intelligence analysts, attorneys, and professional staff are currently furloughed without pay, resulting in reduced staffing for “critical functions that support field operations,” according to FBI Agents Association President Tom O’Connor. 

    • Funds supporting drug trafficking and undercover operations have been dangerously limited, according to O’Connor. Additionally, Quantico labs, which support FBI forensic analysis, are experiencing a mounting backlog. [The Atlantic, 1/10/19] 

  • “Financial security is a matter of national security,” argued the FBI Agents Association in a petition.

Secret Service (falls under DHS)

  • Secret Service personnel tasked with protecting the President and First Family of the United States are working without pay during a shutdown engineered by the White House. [NY Times, 1/7/19]

State Department 

  • Around 42 percent of State Department employees in the United States and 26 percent of U.S. employees abroad have been furloughed. [Foreign Policy, 1/11/19]

  • The office charged with defeating ISIS is crippled because over 30 percent of the team cannot work –– an office already stressed after its head resigned in protest following Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria. [Vox, 1/12/19]

  • While embassies remain open, many diplomats state that day-to-day functions have essentially stopped. The websites for embassies all state: “Due to a lapse in appropriations, website updates will be limited until full operations resume.” [Foreign Policy, 1/11/19]

  • Similarly, social media accounts that provide critical information to Americans overseas are shutdown. [Washington Post, 12/26/19]    

    • After the tsunami in Indonesia, the State Department advised Americans to follow the Twitter accounts for the Embassy in Jakarta and the Consulate in Surabaya but both of them stated they would not be updated due to the shutdown.

  • The State Department will keep issuing passports and visas “as long as there are sufficient fees to support operations.” [Washington Post, 12/26/19]    

  • Language classes for those in training have halted, but diplomats will still be departing for assignment. One diplomat said: “They’re going to be less proficient in the language, which makes it harder for them to do their jobs, which means they’ll struggle to protect and serve the nation.” [Vox, 1/12/19]

  • The Global Chiefs of Mission Conference is still being held, requiring ambassadors and other top diplomatic envoys to travel to Washington, DC. The State Department believes “it is essential to the conduct of foreign affairs essential to national security.” [NY Times, 1/11/19]

    • “The notion that it’s imperative that we have to get all chiefs of mission together is nonsense,” said Brett Bruen, a former American diplomat who also worked in the White House during the Obama administration 

TSA (falls under DHS)

  • Shortages of Transportation Security Administration screeners have led to security checkpoint closures at airports in Miami and Houston. Miami airport spokesman Greg Chin said supervisors are worried they will not have enough agents to operate all of the airport’s security checkpoints because agents have been calling in sick at double the normal rate this week. Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the busiest in the world, closed six security lanes, resulting in hour-long security lines Monday morning [New York Times, 1/11/19Politico, 1/14/19]

  • TSA security officers have been forced to quit after not receiving a paycheck. The TSA does not have enough trainees in the pipeline or capacity to process new hires, creating a travel security risk. [The Huffington Post, 1/9/19]

Ned Price