“The planning itself is disruptive,” an exhausted Hale told reporters. “People are worrying right now about whether their paychecks are going to be delayed, rather than focusing fully on their mission.”
Shutdown planning has eaten up “probably thousands of hours in employee time better spent on supporting national security,” Hale said.
The tempo was similar at just about every federal agency this week, with managers racing from planning meetings to town hall gatherings with their employees.
Hundreds of thousands of employees who got word Friday that their jobs would not be essential prepared to turn in their government-issued BlackBerrys and
iPhones on Tuesday morning, while colleagues who must still report to the office wondered how their agencies would carry out their missions.
In the Defense Department, about 400,000 civilians will have to stay home if Congress does not pass a bill to keep the government open, Hale said.
Preparing for even a partial closure is a unique challenge for the Defense Department, which has a global reach that includes about 200 schools, 250 commissaries, and 700 hospitals and clinics. The department’s mission is singular within the federal government. The Pentagon must continue to support its combat operations in Afghanistan and deployments in many corners of the world.
In his Office of Public Affairs on Friday, Army Col. Steve Warren was coming to grips with the reality facing his staff.
“I’ve got no essentials in here, and I’m concerned,” Warren said, as CNN reported on his flat-screen television about the latest developments on Capitol Hill.
Half the press staff is active-
duty military and the other half civilians, a common mix throughout the agency. The uniformed officers must come to work in a shutdown.
Warren was worrying about manning hundreds of Pentagon Web sites and Twitter and Facebook, which get information to the public. “Guess who runs most of them?” he said. “Civilians who are not essential.”
Some Defense Web sites are run by contractors who will probably be working, since their funding has been approved. But if the federal workers supervising them are furloughed, the contractors may not be able to work.