National security could be another victim of the shutdown


U.S. troops arrive at the site of a suicide attack in Maidan Shar, the capital of Wardak province in Afghanistan, on September 8, 2013.


REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

Barack Obama said he's got the US military's back as the government shutdown begins to choke off federal programs and services.

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He told military personnel and civilian employees of the Defense Department in a pre-recorded video earlier this week, "I've worked to make sure you have the strategy, the resources and the support you need to complete the missions our nation asks of you."

But Obama alluded to the fact that about half of the 800,000 civilian defense workers are expected to be put on furlough. And he laid blame on his political adversaries in Washington. To those facing the prospect of layoffs, he said "you and your families deserve better than the dysfunction we're seeing in Congress."

National Intelligence Director James Clapper was more blunt. "I've been in the intelligence business for about 50 years. I've never seen anything like this," Clapper told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. "This seriously damages our ability to protect the safety and security of this nation and its citizens."

The Pentagon was not taking any chances. On the eve of the shutdown, it engaged in a $5 billion spending frenzy on weapons.

As one former counter-terrorism official told me this morning, "the longer this goes on, the more of an impact it will have."

The former official said intelligence director Clapper was not making political hay, but was trying to send a message to Congress. That message? Stop putting US national security at risk by imposing an open-ended shutdown on the federal government.

For example, the Treasury Department has pulled many of the people who oversee US sanctions for Iran off the job.

"And it's not just Iran," the former official said.