DHS Shutdown Averted

Had a shut down occurred, the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center, the department’s 24/7 cyber response center, likely would have needed to significantly cut staffing.

by / March 5, 2015
Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson hosts President Obama at the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center in mid-January. Flickr/U.S. DHS/Barry Bahler

The impending Department of Homeland Security (DHS) shutdown was officially averted on the afternoon of Wednesday March 5 when President Barack Obama signed a law that will fund DHS through the end of the budget year.

Without action, funding would have expired at midnight Friday.

A shutdown would have meant that employees at DHS facilities in Washington who manage large federal contracts and monitor cyber threats would likely have been sent home, while others would have been required to work without receiving paychecks. DHS employs a total of more than 240,000 people.

The battle over DHS funding began weeks ago, as Republicans attempted to use the legislation to repeal Obama’s executive actions on immigration. Congress then extended funding for one week just ahead of last Friday's deadline. But on Tuesday, Republicans relented and approved full-year funding without the immigration conditions. The House voted 257-167 to approve the bill.

The most critical DHS functions — such as border and airport security and immigration enforcement — would have continued under a shutdown. But some other critical functions, such as the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center, the department’s 24/7 cyber response center, likely would have had to significantly cut staffing.

DHS was previously shut down for two weeks in 2013. A 2013 Congressional Research Service report on that shutdown found that an estimated 31,295 DHS employees were furloughed, while about 85 percent of the department’s workforce remained on the job.

A DHS shutdown could also significantly impact state and local economies. On Monday, President Obama warned state governors about those impacts during a White House speech to the National Governors Association.

“Unless Congress acts, one week from now, more than 100,000 DHS employees, border patrol, port inspectors, TSA agents, will show up to work without getting paid,” Obama said. “They all work in your states. These are folks that, if they don’t get a pay check, will not be able to spend that money in your states.”