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Unintended consequences: The government shutdown is hitting home in surprising ways

From home mortgages to university grants to interns enhancing their career prospects, the federal government shutdown of 2013 is hitting home - and hitting hard.

by / October 5, 2013

Photo by David Kidd

Dark clouds over government

The impacts of the federal government shutdown are immense. From home mortgages to university grants to interns trying to enhance their career prospects, the shutdown of 2013 is hitting home – and causing some surprising consequences.

Gone are the hopes of a very brief shutdown that would end after only a few hours or an early autumn day off. No, this uneasy political situation is now stretching into a second week. The best hope for a resolution has become the dire consequences that could come from a default on government debt.

Meanwhile, many people and programs are being impacted – with stories that will continue even after the shutdown ends and money starts flowing again.  Here are a few examples:

Shutdown will stall home loans for thousands – “Beginning next week, thousands of home buyers will be unable to get approvals for their mortgages because of the government shutdown, potentially undercutting the nation’s resurgent housing market.”

Shutdown shuts out some Michigan interns – “Michigan State University senior Phoebe White had scored her dream internship working for the White House — until the shutdown forced her out of her position.”
As Shutdown Takes Hold, an Essential Few Scientists Still on the Job – “At the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 73% of its more than 18,600 employees have been ordered to stay home. Although outside researchers can still submit grant applications through automated systems, NIH won’t process them. And study sections won’t meet to review pending applications.”

Government websites offline

Meanwhile, all across government, websites and portals are redirecting traffic with messages like the one you get when you visit the National Science Foundation (NSF) website at The redirect takes you to: – and gives this result:


The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) website brings visitors were sent to this page:

All over America, local newspapers describe impacts, including this article which elaborate on the impact to October National Cybersecurity Awareness Month and the fact that DHS employees cannot attend events until the shutdown ends.

A few weeks back, I wrote this piece which offered nationwide alternatives and local initiatives, despite a federal government shutdown. Note: there will be a national webcast offered this week by the MS ISAC as part of Cybersecurity Awareness Month in which I will cover how we have reinvented cyber training in Michigan after missing the mark in past efforts.

Top shutdown concerns

No doubt, there are many very painful aspects to this shutdown that have received more attention. The Washington Post listed the nine most painful shutdown impacts, in their view.

National Public Radio (NPR) described the potential chilling effect on national security and defense. Here’s an excerpt:

“… A senior U.S. official tells NPR that because of the shutdown, some intelligence agencies are focusing only on the biggest threats: counterterrorism and nuclear nonproliferation. So some other issues, such as detecting and defending against cyberattacks and keeping an eye on ballistic missile launches around the world, are falling by the wayside. They just don't have the personnel to keep track of everything….”

And contrary to popular opinion, Washington D.C. might not be hit the hardest when it comes to federal workers impacted. This article and map shows the impact across the USA, with Colorado Springs facing a major loss of workers.

These concerns may be partially addressed with a bit of good news regarding the intent of Congress and President Obama to pay federal employees for the time missed during the shutdown.

Other good news stories surfaced this week about businesses helping federal employees during the shutdown.

Long-term impacts from shutdown

 I am optimistic that the shutdown will end later this month and business will return to some semblance of normal. Still, I worry that recent events will leave a lasting impact on young people who may otherwise consider a career in government. Many questions will still need to be answered, even after doors reopen.

Can our nation be governed without a crisis mentality? How can leaders communicate in new ways to reach agreements without potential catastrophic impacts? Time will tell.

Meanwhile, there are many people impacted by the shutdown right now. What more can we do to help them through this difficult time? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Dan Lohrmann Chief Security Officer & Chief Strategist at Security Mentor Inc.

Daniel J. Lohrmann is an internationally recognized cybersecurity leader, technologist, keynote speaker and author.

During his distinguished career, he has served global organizations in the public and private sectors in a variety of executive leadership capacities, receiving numerous national awards including: CSO of the Year, Public Official of the Year and Computerworld Premier 100 IT Leader.
Lohrmann led Michigan government’s cybersecurity and technology infrastructure teams from May 2002 to August 2014, including enterprisewide Chief Security Officer (CSO), Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) roles in Michigan.

He currently serves as the Chief Security Officer (CSO) and Chief Strategist for Security Mentor Inc. He is leading the development and implementation of Security Mentor’s industry-leading cyber training, consulting and workshops for end users, managers and executives in the public and private sectors. He has advised senior leaders at the White House, National Governors Association (NGA), National Association of State CIOs (NASCIO), U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), federal, state and local government agencies, Fortune 500 companies, small businesses and nonprofit institutions.

He has more than 30 years of experience in the computer industry, beginning his career with the National Security Agency. He worked for three years in England as a senior network engineer for Lockheed Martin (formerly Loral Aerospace) and for four years as a technical director for ManTech International in a US/UK military facility.

Lohrmann is the author of two books: Virtual Integrity: Faithfully Navigating the Brave New Web and BYOD for You: The Guide to Bring Your Own Device to Work. He has been a keynote speaker at global security and technology conferences from South Africa to Dubai and from Washington, D.C., to Moscow.

He holds a master's degree in computer science (CS) from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and a bachelor's degree in CS from Valparaiso University in Indiana.

Follow Lohrmann on Twitter at: @govcso

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