USS Carl Vinson
The USS Carl Vinson docked at North Island with the San Diego skyline in the distance. Photo by Chris Jennewein

Two of the region’s largest federal enterprises, military bases and Border Patrol, are unlikely to face major disruptions from the government shutdown that occured at midnight Eastern time.

Congress had until then to pass some kind of spending bill to keep the government up and running at full capacity, but efforts failed. Many federal agencies are now expected to close and hundreds of thousands of government workers possibly furloughed.

The House passed a stopgap spending measure on Thursday that would keep the government funded through Feb. 16, but no such deal was reached in the Senate.

Many are hoping lawmakers will reach an agreement over the weekend. Since most government offices aren’t open on Saturday and Sunday, there is time for lawmakers to reach a compromise that would allow the government to be back up and running by Monday.

The government considers both military and law enforcement activities as “essential,” and therefore San Diego’s Navy and Marine Corps bases will remain up and running and inspections will continue at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.

However, pain might be felt at bases like the massive Camp Pendleton, where the federal government employs 1,600 civilians.

Some 64 percent of those are eligible for furlough. If they are sent home, they will not earn money until Congress passes a spending bill. They work in places like the commissary, the military equivalent of a grocery store, and other roles that support the base’s average daily population of 85,000, according to Capt. Brian Villiard, a base public affairs officer.

“The base will still be able to maintain essential functions, medical services will be provided,” he said. “Everybody who works on this base is vital, but unfortunately sometimes to meet budget constraints we have to identify folks who may have to be furloughed.”

Those among the 43,000 service members at Camp Pendleton who are on active duty will continue working, though they would not receive pay for their work during the shutdown until Congress passes a spending measure, according to a Department of Defense memo.

That memo offered broad guidance to the military about how to handle operations in the event of a shutdown. But more specific decisions, including which and how many civilians to furlough, will be left up to each branch. More information about the impact to the civilian workforce should be available now that the midnight deadline has passed, according to DOD spokeswoman Maj. Carla Gleason.

There have been 18 shutdowns since 1976, when the current budgetary rules went into effect.

Ones that occur over the weekend are typically minimally disruptive, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. The longest lasted 21 days in 1996-1997 and resulted from Democratic President Bill Clinton and Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s failure to reach a deal on tax cuts.

That was one of several that occurred during the 1990s when Clinton was in the White House and Republicans controlled Congress. There were several reforms passed after that which eased some of the chaos of funding gaps, which led to “clear lines” being drawn about how the government will operate during shutdowns, said political science lecturer Stephen Goggin, who teaches at UC Irvine and San Diego State University.

This latest budget impasse is unprecedented. It is the first time that a shutdown occurred while one party is under control of both the executive and legislative branches, he said.

During the last shutdown in 2013 National Parks such as the Cabrillo National Monument were shuttered.

Officials will try to keep some parks open, though some services like campgrounds and restrooms will not operate, it was reported.

Social Security checks will still be issued and air traffic control, border patrol and other national security operations will continue.

Prior to the shutdown, Department of Homeland Security officials said, “The dedicated men and women of (the Department of Homeland Security) are fully prepared to protect the homeland and keep Americans safe should a lapse in government funding occur. Nearly 90 percent of all DHS personnel are considered essential staff and will continue to perform their duties in the event of a government shutdown. We urge Congress to fully fund DHS in order to pay the federal employees on the front lines defending our nation.”

— City News Service

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.