Shutting Down the Government in a 24/7 World

Shutting down the federal government in a 24/7 world isn’t easy.

During the last government shutdown in 1995, the Internet wasn’t yet mainstream. That didn’t happen until 1999, so workers weren’t wired to check and respond to email from anywhere, anytime.

Government workers didn’t work remotely in 1995. The Telecommute Enhancement Act of 2010 has made working from home a common practice for most federal employees. But in 1995, no one could have imagined how the Internet, smart phones, tablets and laptops would change the workplace.

Back then, government agencies also couldn’t push out news and information 24/7 from Twitter accounts and government websites.

On Tuesday, just about every government Twitter account tweeted, “Due to the government shutdown, we will not be tweeting or responding to any replies. We will return as soon as possible.” Federal websites include disclaimers that content will not be updated because of the government shutdown. Furloughed employees, accustomed to working in a 24/7 world, were told to not access their government-issued email, laptops and electronic devices.

The federal government went dark on Tuesday despite the fact that there was no invasion, disaster or revolution disrupting the technology or the service that powers the technology.

According to BBC News, the government shutdown has other countries confused and concerned. “That leaders of one of the most powerful nations on earth willingly provoked a crisis that suspends public services and decreases economic growth is astonishing to many,” BBC News reports.

Shutting down a government in 2013 has more gravitas than it did 1995 because of all the ways technology has allowed the federal government to connect with its employees and the public.

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Scott Kearby

But … not all of federal government is shutdown. I am not a finance person, but I am not sure how the “essential” employees are able to continue to work and be paid if there is no money authorized and appropriated by the Congress.

The other question I have … if the agencies get to determine who is essential & what functions are essential, then how can they claim that we are jeopardizing security due to layoffs at the CIA or we are risking a flu epidemic due to layoffs at CDC? The leaders in those agencies should identify the essential people for those particular functions so they can continue to do that work … leaders are hired to make the difficult decisions and prioritize resources, not to throw up their hands and whine. Instead of doing the jobs they were hired for, they seem to be following the example of the politicians in the White House and the Congress.

Monika Dlugopolski

good points, @Lisa Roepe, about the changed world given access to technology and the 24/7 nature of day-to-day life

@Scott Kearby, ultimately the bureaucrats support the elected politicians. While the bureaucrats identify essential services (providers/employees) and provide that advice to the politicians, the politicians ultimately make the decisions and the rest of us do our jobs fulfilling their promises and supporting their direction. If they choose to put a stop to the delivery of all government services, then that’s what happens. The definition of fair and democratic surely is changing, eh? Stay positive, surely this has to be resolved soon.

I’m learning some valuable lessons from the sidelines (across the border). Good luck to all.

Henry Brown

as Scott Kearby says: Not all of federal government is shutdown… Have been part of 17 different goverment shutdowns as either a Federal employee or a member of the armed forces and there hasn’t been a single government shutdown in anyone of them….

May not have been 24/7 media coverage in the 2 shutdowns in 1995 but I was tasked with responding to reporters questions 24/7 either in the press room at the government installation or via telephone.

IMO the only reason for any of the “shutdowns“, including this one, is the desire to gain power, what is different about this one the power grabs seem to be going on close to 24/7 (Got to reach all of our audience regardless of what time it is in Washington DC

Lisa Roepe

Thanks for your comment @Henry Brown. I think you are right about the 24/7 media coverage making this shutdown feel different than the one in 1995/1996.