WASHINGTON -- A broad swath of the public might not even notice the partial shutdown of the federal government Tuesday, but many federal employees, government contractors and users of government services are likely to feel the pain.
The wallets of at least 800,000 federal workers furloughed in a shutdown will be thinner, at least temporarily. Those workers will not be paid until theres an agreement to fund the government anew.
Unable to reach an agreement last night as the House and Senate played political tennis over a plan to temporarily fund the budget, the nation will wake up to an altered government landscape. Some of the services immediately affected are largely invisible, but important, nonetheless.
The State Department, for example, will have to halt some processing of passport applications in federal offices not run by the agency but that are shut down, potentially threatening business or vacation travel of unsuspecting citizens.
Most of the Treasury Departments law enforcement support functions tied to the Bank Secrecy Act will be halted, interrupting efforts to crack down on money laundering and other financial crimes.
But the Department of Transportation said that all air traffic control services will continue without interruption, which is good news for the flying public. Amtrak doesnt expect disruption of passenger railroad service, either.
Still, nearly a third of the Transportation Departments workforce will be furloughed; 18,481 of the agencys 55,468 employees, according to the departments 32-page contingency plan. On-call accident investigations, hazardous materials safety inspections and airport planning will continue, but audits, security background checks and employee drug testing will halt.
A shutdown will bring a mixed bag for the military and its contractors. Soldiers at home and abroad will get paid, but they might face delays in receiving that pay if the shutdown proves protracted.
The Defense Department is also allowed to maintain emergency police, fire and medical services during a government closure. But about half of the Pentagons 718,000 civilian employees will be barred from working. All travel and training of both military and civilian personnel will stop, as well, except for activities needed to support exempt military operations and emergency services.
We wouldnt be able to do most training, we couldnt enter into most new contracts, routine maintenance would have to stop, Defense Department Comptroller Robert F. Hale said at a news conference last week. It has or will consume a lot of senior management attention, probably thousands of hours in employee time better spent on national security.
Veterans still will receive medical help at hospitals and clinics run by the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the processing of claims, pensions and other benefits also will be unaffected. But some support networks in place for the veterans may be out of reach, including VA hotlines and call centers, which will be inactive, such as the inspector generals hotline and another for consumer affairs.
The Department of Homeland Security plans to furlough more than 30,000 of its 230,000 employees. But much of the physical work on the U.S-Mexico and U.S.-Canada borders will remain unchanged. Border Patrol, Customs and airport security agents seen as critical to the safety and security of the country are expected to report for duty.