A Homeland Security shutdown by the numbers

Meredith Shiner
Political correspondent
U.S. Department of Homeland Security employees work during a guided media tour inside the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center in Arlington, Virginia June 26, 2014. Picture taken June 26, 2014. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

With time running out, congressional Republicans continue to squabble among themselves over how to fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) before the sprawling, multimission agency runs out of money Friday.

The Republican leadership — still feeling burned from a 2013 shutdown of the entire federal government — is spinning its wheels to come up with a solution that satisfies conservatives seeking to halt President Obama’s executive orders on immigration. The GOP leadership is caught between their traditional “strong on national security” reputation and their base’s desire to block the president on immigration reform at any cost.

As Congress inches closer to its deadline, the Obama administration has outlined the numerous effects of a potential DHS shutdown, trying to reassure Americans that their safety will not be compromised while still highlighting the damage that would be done in the event of a stoppage of payment, especially to the nearly 200,000 DHS workers who would be required to work without pay until Congress decided on how to restore funding.

Yahoo News takes a by-the-numbers look at how a shutdown could affect those workers, as well as the day-to-day operations of some of the country’s most visible agencies, including the Transportation Security Administration, Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 


200,000 — The projected overall number of DHS workers who would continue to do their jobs without pay in the event of a shutdown. A full quarter of that number — more than 50,000 workers — would be TSA security agents tasked with screening air travelers across the country. About 40,000 active duty Coast Guard members would continue to work without pay, and 4,000 Secret Service employees would also work without compensation. The protective agency, which has come under fire in recent months for high-profile security lapses at the White House, is also responsible for tracking financial crimes around the world and in cyberspace.

An U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine agent pears out of the open door of a helicopter during a patrol flight near the Texas-Mexico border, Friday, Sept. 5, 2014, near McAllen, Texas. Since illegal immigration spiked in the Rio Grande Valley this summer, the Border Patrol has dispatched more agents, the Texas Department of Public Safety has sent more troopers and Gov. Rick Perry deployed as many as 1,000 guardsmen to the area. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

40,000 — Customs and Border Protection employees would work without pay, as would 13,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. The effects on these two DHS agencies would present an especially difficult political road for Republicans to navigate: They are trying to stake out a much more muscular position on immigration law, but they may potentially harm the very people tasked with doing that enforcement.

22 percent — The number of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) employees who would be furloughed, or kept away from work. According to FEMA, work on current disaster relief would continue, but work on preparations for future disaster response would halt. According to the Congressional Research Service, FEMA also would stop its work training local law enforcement officials in how to respond to events involving weapons of mass destruction.

30,000 — The approximate number of total DHS employees subject to a furlough in the event of a shutdown. DHS employees who work in headquarters management and administrative support — the people deemed as not essential to day-to-day, on-the-ground protection of Americans — would not show up to work in this case. These federal employees would not be entitled to pay for the days of work they missed. Congress could decide to retroactively pay these employees, but it would have to provide additional funding for that pay as an addendum to any DHS spending bill it passes.

0 — The number of Securing The Cities grants issued by DHS that could be awarded in this fiscal year in the event of a shutdown, according to DHS. The program assists the major American cities of New York, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles with their detection and reporting of potentially dangerous nuclear materials. 

$545 million — the difference between current spending levels and desired spending levels for Immigration and Customs enforcement. For Customs and Border Protection, that number is $200 million, which the agency had said it wanted to use to upgrade its border surveillance technology. If Congress uses a continuing resolution, or stopgap spending measure, to avoid or end a shutdown, DHS will not be able to receive the additional money it requested to bolster these programs or changes at other embattled agencies, like the Secret Service.