The American government is officially closed for business. While markets continue to hold strong and the world economy has remained stable, there are some important things to consider during the government shutdown. Chief among them is whether or not the United States will be able to adequately defend itself from terrorist and other threats.

Government shutdown

Congressional leaders have been quick to point out that the American military will still remain on duty and will be paid throughout the shutdown. While keeping America’s armed forces at the ready is certainly an important step for ensuring safety of the homeland, the military is no longer the only, or arguably even most important, national defense organization.

The war on terror has forced a shift away from traditional country-vs-country military threats. Now, terrorist organizations, spy networks, and other activities pose a greater short-term threat than Chinese or Russian submarines and tanks. While the military plays an important role in protecting the United States against such non-traditional threats, they work in close coordination with civilian agencies, which have not been afforded funding protection throughout the government shutdown.

Government shutdown lays off spy agency workers

It is believed that a whopping 70 percent of workers at the CIA, NSA, and other spy agencies have been laid off since the government shutdown. While these staff have been deemed “non-essential,” this distinction remains vague. Either way, with 70 percent of the civilian workforce laid off, America’s intelligence efforts will certainly be curtailed through the government shutdown. While soldiers often work alongside civilians in intelligence operations, they will likely not be able to make up for the drop in personnel.

This might help some people rest at ease knowing that controversial electronic surveillance programs are likely being scaled back through the shut down. At the same time, it may embolden terrorist groups and spy agencies from other countries to quickly ramp up their efforts and use this as a window of opportunity. For example, it is possible that China and Russia might use this as an opportunity to look for security weak spots in the United States’ electrical grids and other areas.

It is possible that leaders may eventually try to fund the CIA and other other spy agencies through piecemeal legislation, however, Democrats in the Senate and the Obama administration have made it clear that they will reject such proposals. Until such time that the NSA and CIA have their funding restored, the United States will find itself more vulnerable than ever to terrorist and spy activities.

Battle over Obamacare and spending policies

The ideological battle over Obamacare and other spending policies is now having a detrimental impact on basic and non-controversial elements of the government. Beyond spy agencies, national parks have been shuttered, American diplomacy abroad is being vastly scaled back, and numerous other efforts are being sidelined.

Beyond that, the entire shutdown has been largely viewed as an embarrassment for the American government and calls into question the country’s ability to government itself. If the United States cannot even govern itself, why should other countries look to it as a global leader? The longer the shutdown continues, the weaker the United States will grow both in terms of capacity and perception.