Cyber-security personnel at the Department of Homeland Security are among the lucky few expected to be exempt from the government furlough if Congress doesn't resolve the budget crisis.
Department of Homeland Security personnel and contractors
who work on cyber-security would be considered "essential" employees and would
not be furloughed if the government shuts down, according to DHS officials.
Federal agencies and departments are trying to determine
which employees will have to stay at home when the current stopgap spending
expires April 8. Congress has been locked in a battle for the past few weeks
trying to negotiate agency funding levels for the federal budget. If it isn't
resolved by the end of the day, all non-essential government activities will
Federal law states the government must stop all activities
except those "necessary for the safety of human life or protection of property"
during a government shutdown.
Neither the Office of Management and Budget nor the Office
of Personnel Management would comment on how many IT staffers would be
furloughed. The White House has estimated 800,000 federal employees may be
Most cyber-security employees will likely be reporting for
work as usual even if Congress can't come to an agreement. A bulk of DHS and
its cyber-security operations will remain unaffected as the employees are
considered exempt under statutory guidelines, DHS officials told NextGov
That includes incident-response personnel, network administrators, and security
staff who monitor the network for potential intrusions.
Of the 222,500 DHS employees, about 85 percent have been
identified as exempt employees, according to the DHS
guidance available on the department's Website
. About one-third of the exempt
employees are considered law enforcement (such as border control) and another
third are considered "necessary to protect life and property," according to the
There were concerns that cyber-attackers would view the
shutdown as the perfect opportunity to infiltrate government systems because
there will be less people monitoring the infrastructure.
All DHS Websites will remain up and running but will not be
maintained during the shutdown period, according to the department's guidance. The
availability of the agency Website is determined by each individual agency.
While the Internal Revenue Service is expected to remain online, the
transparency site Data.gov will not.
The department has the authority to bring back essential
employees even during the furlough if there is an emergency situation that
requires personnel support, according to the guidance. That may include
strategy-oriented personnel who could develop new lines of defense during an
The IT and cybersecurity operations for the Department of
Defense and the military branches are also expected to be untouched.
While government employees responsible for IT security will
be largely exempt from the shutdown, work on future IT projects and cyber
legislation will have to stop. Cameron F. Kerry, the Commerce Department's
general counsel, told the Judiciary Crime and Terrorism Subcommittee that a
proposal for network defense legislation will be delayed despite the fact they
are "very close" to finalizing it.
One of the things the proposed legislation would address is
which agency would have control over certain "critical infrastructure
" in case
of a national emergency, among other issues.
"I hadn't thought of it in the context of the
government shutdown--pretty significant national security cost to precipitate
with a government shutdown," said the subcommittee chairman Sheldon
Funding for a number of cyber-security projects
been axed or drastically reduced from temporary spending bills as well as next