Washington—Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today offered the following remarks on the effects a government shutdown would have on the intelligence community as well as agencies covered in her role as chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development:
“I come to the floor this afternoon as the chairman of the Intelligence Committee in order to speak about the effect the government shutdown is starting to have on the intelligence community and what effect it will have if the shutdown continues.
Let me give the most important figure up front. Across the intelligence communities, 72 percent of the civilian workforce is being furloughed. This means that with the exception of a few intelligence agencies that have a significant number of military personnel, the lights are being turned off and the majority of the people who produce our intelligence, analyze that intelligence, and provide warning of terrorist attacks or advise policymakers of major national security events will be prevented from doing their jobs. Simply stated, this is unacceptable. The failure of this Congress to perform its most basic functions means that our country is at heightened risk of terrorist attack.
Intelligence provides this Nation with its first line of defense because long before a threat makes it to our shores, the men and women in our intelligence community learn about it, sound the warnings, and often take the steps to neutralize that threat. Before the President or the Secretary of State makes decisions on U.N. Security Council resolutions, such as a resolution to end Syria’s chemical weapons program, they review the intelligence and they seek the advice of intelligence analysts.
Finding Osama bin Laden in a house in Abbottabad and removing a bomb from an Al Qaeda operative in Yemen aren’t things that just happen. They require the dedicated work of a huge array of professionals. Good intelligence requires the following: CIA officers on the ground and around the world meeting with sources; technical wizards who collect signals and imagery information; engineers who put together the systems to bring the information back to Washington and who convert the ones and zeroes of computer code into meaningful, actionable intelligence. Today, 72 percent of the civilian workforce will not be doing these jobs. Our shutdown is the biggest gift we could possibly give our enemies.
I understand and I support continuing to pay our military men and women, operating both at home and abroad, including tens of thousands still deployed to Afghanistan.
By furloughing our intelligence workforce, we put our uniformed men and women at risk as they, too, rely on the intelligence agencies to tell them where the next assault may take place or where the next IED is hidden.
We have Ambassadors in threatened capitals. I can guarantee that our Ambassadors in Kabul and Baghdad and Sanaa and Islamabad rely on their intelligence briefers and the tactical intelligence support to their security teams as much as they rely on the marines who guard front gates.
I met earlier this spring with Ambassador Anne Patterson in Cairo. I saw the gates and walls of our modern Embassy that had been overrun by the same crowds protesting down the street in Tahrir Square. I met with the CIA, NSA, and other intelligence officers who give the Ambassador and her team warning when the extremists are looking to try to attack our Embassy again.
Some of these intelligence professionals will obviously remain on duty and are absolutely essential, but by furloughing the majority of the intelligence civilian workforce they rely on, we are preventing them from effectively doing their job.
I spoke yesterday with Director James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence. At my request, he sent me a short report on how the shutdown will affect the largest intelligence agencies. In addition to the 72 percent overall figure, his report lists how the shutdown will cripple the CIA, the NSA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, to include the National Counterterrorism Center.
Every single agency I listed will lose the majority of its civilian workforce. Many of them don’t have a sizable military component that is exempt from the shutdown. The numbers are still classified, but any Senator who wants to see how our failure to fund the government is harming the intelligence community is welcome to find out and read this report. It is in the intelligence office on the second floor of Hart. The intelligence agencies at the Departments of State, Treasury, Energy, and Homeland Security are hit even worse.
I wholly regret that we are in this situation. I regret that across the country national parks are closed and Federal safety inspectors are sidelined. For 4 years we have squeezed the discretionary appropriations levels to the point that every part of the Federal Government has had to cut back and make do with less. What we are doing now puts American lives at risks. It is an abdication of congressional responsibility.
I wanted to come to this floor to make clear to every Member of this body that what we have done directly damages our national security.
I also would like take the opportunity to speak on some of the cutbacks that are in process in the area of energy and water.
Since 2001 I have served as chairman of three different Appropriations subcommittees: Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, the Interior Department, and today the Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development. Over the years I helped make a lot of tough choices on which programs to fund, which not to fund, et cetera, but never have things been as bad as they are today. The cuts we are making to our appropriations bills under sequestration are strangling programs that must be funded. These are programs that are vital to our country, vital to public safety, and programs that promise to deliver the next breakthroughs in energy research.
I will speak about some of the negative effects a shutdown and continued sequester could have on my subcommittee.
The agency within my subcommittee that may have the most direct impact on the public is the Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps safeguards our dams, our levees, and our drinking water. It keeps our harbors open for cargo ships, and it maintains more than 4,000 recreation sites. Most people don’t know that. Simply put, a government shutdown could mean the termination of a wide range of Army Corps of Engineers activities.
Let me mention flood control for a moment. Work could stop on virtually all construction projects, studies, and activities related to flood control and navigation across this country. These projects protect tens of millions of Americans. A shutdown may mean the Corps stops work on improving dam safety projects, including the dam at California’s Isabella Lake, which is the dam most at risk of failure in our State.
Halting these projects endangers citizens and ultimately increases the cost to complete this work. What is more, these projects actually reduce overall costs to the Federal Government. Damage prevented by the Corps’ projects—this is only damage prevented—exceeds $25 billion a year.
It is indeed a big deal.
Other Corps projects interrupted by the shutdown include the strengthening of levees and flood walls to reduce the risk of loss of life and economic loss from flooding and coastal storms.
Work could stop on improvements to flood protection levees along the Mississippi River, levees that experienced record flood levels in 2011.
Projects in Boston, Kansas City, and Seattle could be suspended. Even worse, these construction delays would come at a time when severe storms are causing damage with greater frequency.
Even dam safety projects could be affected by a shutdown.
One example is California’s Folsom Dam, where the Corps and the Bureau of Reclamation are working to increase dam safety. A shutdown would likely cause the Corps and Reclamation to suspend contract activities, delaying this vital project.
The Folsom Dam is a major component of the Central Valley Project, which provides clean water to more than 20 million Californians, and should not be put at risk by a government shutdown.
A shutdown will also have dramatic impacts on water-borne commerce.
More than 2.3 billion tons of cargo move through our marine transportation system. Improvements to channels, harbors and waterways ensure that this vital traffic flows without pause.
Projects at Oakland Harbor in California, Savannah Harbor in Georgia, and Charleston Harbor in South Carolina could be impacted by the shutdown, meaning higher construction and transportation costs.
The country’s vast system of inland waterways could also suffer from the shutdown.
More than 600 million tons of cargo move through our inland waterways on commercial ships. A shutdown means this cargo could be slowed, and the use of locks would likely not be available at all to recreational boaters.
While facilities on lakes that combine flood control and hydropower should continue to operate because of safety issues, hydropower operations will likely be curtailed.
This means 353 hydropower units operated by the Corps—which provide roughly one-quarter of the country’s hydropower—would operate at reduced capacity. This would cut into the $1.5 billion in payments the units generate each year.
There are also major permitting and operational impacts that will be immediately noticeable.
Processing of regulatory permits under the Clean Water Act, which the Corps handles, will be suspended.
In a typical year, the Corps processes more than 80,000 permit actions. This means anyone from an individual building a dock to a community planning a major development would not be able to move forward because they won’t be able to secure a permit.
The Corps will also be unable to provide enforcement actions on existing permitted activities, which could harm sensitive environmental or aquatic resources.
Another visible effect will be the shuttering of recreation areas.
The Corps of Engineers is the largest provider of outdoor recreation among all federal agencies. They maintain more than 4,200 recreation sites at 422 projects in 43 states, with more than 370 million visits each year.
Those visitors spend more than $18 billion annually and support 350,000 full-time or part-time jobs. All this will be impacted by a government shutdown.
The Department of Energy could also face severe limitations under a shutdown.
Research grants to national labs and universities could be suspended. These grants fund important clean energy challenges related to biofuels, supercomputing, and materials research.
The output of world-class science facilities on cutting edge research and product development may be significantly reduced. With U.S. leadership in science threatened by China, Japan and Europe, now is not the time to suspend major scientific research.
Regarding the national security missions of the National Nuclear Security Administration, a government shutdown may delay important nuclear modernization activities.
A government shutdown may disrupt and delay efforts to replace aging components in every single nuclear weapon in the stockpile. For example, delays in replacing aging components in the W76 submarine-launched warhead—which makes up more than 50% of the nation’s nuclear deterrent—would have serious impacts to the Navy’s nuclear deterrence mission.
Upgrades to aging infrastructure related to uranium, plutonium and high explosives capabilities would also be delayed. Delays of just days can add millions of dollars to a project’s bottom line.
A government shutdown may also delay the design of a new nuclear reactor for the Ohio-class submarine. A shutdown may also delay refueling one of only three training nuclear reactors for sailors, which is critical for supplying sufficient numbers of sailors to man the U.S. submarine fleet.
Lastly, on this matter, the shutdown will delay and increase costs to clean up and remediate nuclear contamination at former nuclear weapons and nuclear energy research sites. These activities should be completed as quickly as possible to protect human health.
Finally, Mr. President, I just wanted to say a couple of things about the much-beleaguered health care plan and what is happening so far.
During the first 3 hours today, the Federal health care Web site—healthcare.gov—with information about exchanges across the country logged 1 million visitors. As of 9:30 this morning, in Kentucky, the health exchange had 24,000 visitors and processed more than 1,000 applications.
I am anxious to provide the west coast numbers, although not able at this time due to the 3-hour time delay.
There were 2 million visits to New York’s health exchange during the first 2 hours of the launched site. Even at 11:30, Connecticut had 10,000 visitors and 22 people enrolled.
Let me just end with this one story. Paula Thornhill, a mother of seven who lives in Virginia, was the first to apply for coverage today in her county, which is Prince William. She is quoted as saying: “I am relieved that they did come out with this affordable health care. I am relieved.”
So far so good today, and I am hopeful that this tyranny of the minority will end shortly.”