America’s federal cybersecurity workforce will see sharp reductions if Congress fails to pass a spending bill to keep the government open, according to planning documents from federal agencies.
If a new budget is not signed by midnight Dec. 21, roughly 800,000 federal government workers will be affected by a shutdown, according to the White House.
Among the heaviest hit agencies would be the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which would have 85 percent of its staff furloughed. Only 435 employees are considered “essential,” according to a planning document from the Department of Commerce.
Officials from the agency were already planning for a potential government shutdown last week, and told Fifth Domain that they were wary of scheduling meetings after the Dec. 21 shutdown date. The agency is in charge of writing guidelines for the federal government’s cybersecurity regulations, and have a series of standards set to be released in the coming weeks.
Also seeing sharp reductions are the Director of National Intelligence’s analysis and operations workforce, which would see a 60 percent reduction in active workforce to just 345 employees, according to documents.
The planned shutdown would come just one day after the United States accused China of breaking an agreement not to use hacked materials for commercial use, increasing cyber tensions between the two countries.
It appears that the Department of Homeland Security’s new Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, created just last month, is among the most protected in the event of a government shutdown. The agency would only have 45 percent of its workforce furloughed, with 2,008 employees exempt.
Spokespeople from the Department of Homeland Security did not respond to repeated requests for comment regarding how the shutdown would affect their agency.
”My hope would be that anyone at DHS who is working on cyber, those would be viewed as critical positions and would continue working,” Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., told Fifth Domain.
The Trump administration indicated at the beginning of the week that the president would be willing to sign a clean continuing resolution while looking elsewhere for border wall funding.
In an about-face that upended a supposed fiscal deal, President Donald Trump on Dec. 20 demanded that the federal budget include $5 billion for a border wall. Late into the night on Dec. 21, lawmakers in the House passed legislation that included the $5 billion, but it would still have to pass the Senate, where it is expected to fail without the support of Senate Democrats, who are against the measure.
Justin Lynch is the Associate Editor at Fifth Domain. He has written for the New Yorker, the Associated Press, Foreign Policy, the Atlantic, and others. Follow him on Twitter @just1nlynch.