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Shutdown or not, ‘impacts will ripple for months’

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“There’s a critical security aspect of this that people need to keep in mind. Even though you’re not managing or using that application, if it’s reachable by the Internet it needs to be monitored and protected,” Forman said. “Because of the nature of the networks and virtualization of these data centers, even if the application isn’t being run, if it’s accessible via the network the security needs to be maintained.”

Continuous monitoring, he says, is something that agency leaders cannot overlook when dealing with a possible shutdown. More so than in past years, cybersecurity has become an integral part of agency IT operations and a shutdown would create an ideal opportunity for malicious cyber-attackers.

“The threat environment is constantly evolving and changing,” Forman said. “You diverge in your ability to protect against threats everyday if it’s not being managed.”

Much of the infrastructure will continue to run but will not be managed, as many IT functions are automated or at least can be in the event of a government shutdown. IT security, however, is not a segmented activity where one specific function can easily be shutdown, said Forman.

“So much more is integrated this time around, including how cybersecurity is done,” Forman said. “Things in the past that weren’t part of the discussion, like continuous cybersecurity monitoring, are now necessary and need to be kept open.”

Regardless of whether the shutdown happens or not, procurement offices and contractors will take a major hit. The last 10 days of September is a critical period when many of end of the year government awards are made. Forman says that procurement offices have had to shift their focus away from the tremendous workload of end of the year awards and instead focus on preparing for a shutdown.

The impacts, he says, will ripple for months through government.

John Palguta, vice president for policy at the Partnership for Public Service, said that some of the costs associated with the shutdown cannot be calculated.

“There’s a real human cost that’s hard to quantify, but still very real,” he said.

The more tangible costs, like backlogs building up, hours devoted to shutdown related work and administrative costs will come at a high price to government. Palguta said the cost of simply wasting time not doing more productive work would be significant. The government shutdown of 1996 cost the government $1.4 billion.

Another factor for agency leaders to consider will be the actual physical technology. Increased mobility and number of workers teleworking gives government less control of who is accessing what technology.

Palguta said this is where things could get tricky. Officially, workers would not be authorized to conduct government business which means not receiving or sending work related messages from work devices, and not logging into the system until the shutdown is over.

Despite all of this time spent planning, the administration is confident a shutdown will not happen.

A White House Office of Management and Budget spokesperson, Emily Cain, said the administration strongly believes a lapse in appropriations should not occur. Congress has enough time to prevent a shutdown and the administration is willing to work with Congress to enact a short-term continuing resolution to fund critical government operations.

Agencies are taking appropriate action to prepare for an orderly shutdown but Cain said OMB hopes this work will be “unnecessary and there will be no lapse in appropriations.”

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