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Photo: Jorge Villalba/Getty

The government is on hiatus. Enemies of the U.S. are not.

Why it matters: During the government shutdown, essential personnel are exempt from the furlough — so in theory, anyone preventing cybersecurity calamities is still showing up for work. But experts believe the loss of support staff makes the cybersecurity effects of a shutdown bad in the short term and worse in the long term.

The fallout: Consider the difficulty of maintaining security in government networks before a government shutdown. Now try doing that with fewer people.

  • "Defending federal networks is already an act of triage, due to personnel shortages, legacy IT overhang, uneven risk management practices and a hostile threat environment. Furloughs make a hard job even harder," said Andrew Grotto, a former White House cybersecurity adviser for Presidents Obama and Trump and a current employee of Stanford's Hoover Institution.
  • While critical personnel are still on duty during a shutdown, he added, "What that means as a practical matter is that these people have to do even more than usual."

Those problems will stick around after the shutdown. It's likely, say multiple former federal employees Codebook spoke to, that federal networks will fall behind on basic hygiene tasks.

  • "Government shutdowns tend to affect support activities disproportionately, such as hiring or vetting contracts. Thus, over time, personnel slots will go unfilled and contracts will expire, making it difficult to sustain the workforce or upgrade equipment," noted Michael Daniel, former White House cybersecurity coordinator and current president and CEO of the industry group Cyber Threat Alliance.

In the long term, this could do irreparable damage to the federal government's ability to hire cybersecurity talent.

  • The unemployment rate for trained cybersecurity personnel is famously at 0%, the private sector pays better and the only advantage the government has in hiring is the importance of the work and the gratitude of a nation.
  • Willingness to shutter the government doesn't speak too highly to the perceived value of the job or its employees.
  • *Government people go to work because of the mission, and we’re kicking them in the teeth," said Phil Reitinger, president and CEO of the Global Cybersecurity Alliance.

Departments devoted to cybersecurity policies will grind to a halt.

  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology, which is developing a widely awaited privacy framework, is seeing its staff reduce to 49 out of its normal cohort of roughly 3,000 employees.
  • The Department of Homeland Security's newly christened Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency will be without a substantial amount of support staff. By DHS' tally, 43% of the workforce — over 1,500 employees — are furloughed.

Security-related investigations and prosecutions at the FBI and Department of Justice will continue with all employees carried over.

The bottom line: Furloughing cybersecurity staff creates both short-term and long-term vulnerabilities.

  • "Cyber threats don’t operate on Washington’s political timetable, and they don’t stop because of a shutdown," said Lisa Monaco, former assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism.

Go deeper: The fear of a painful shutdown is kicking in

Editor's note: This story has been updated with Phil Reitinger's statement.

Go deeper

Neera Tanden withdraws nomination for Office of Management and Budget director

Neera Tanden testifying before the Senate Budget Committee in Washington, D.C., in February 2021. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Neera Tanden withdrew her name from nomination to lead the Office of Management and Budget after several senators voiced opposition and concern about her qualifications and past combative tweets, President Biden announced Tuesday.

Why it matters: Tanden’s decision to pull her nomination marks Biden's first setback in filling out his Cabinet with a thin Democratic majority in the Senate.

What's ahead for the newest female CEOs

Jane Fraser (L) and Rosalind Brewer. Photos: Jason Redmond/AFP via Getty Images; Rodrigo Capote/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

The number of women at the helm of America’s biggest companies pales in comparison to men, but is newly growing — and their tasks are huge.

What's going on: Jane Fraser took over at Citigroup this week, the first woman to ever lead a major U.S. bank. Rosalind Brewer will take the reins at Walgreens in the coming weeks (March 15) — a company that's been run by white men for more than a century.

3 hours ago - Health

Biden says U.S. will have enough vaccines for 300 million adults by end of May

President Biden. Photo: Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty Images

President Biden on Tuesday said that ramped-up coronavirus vaccine production will provide enough doses for 300 million Americans by the end May.

Why it matters: That's two months sooner than Biden's previous promise of enough vaccines for all American adults by the end of July.