Shutdown: Lessons Not Learned


How do you stand out during the federal government shutdown? Do you want to stand out? Or, during the shutdown is it better to stay below everyone’s radar?

These are all good questions. Answering these questions may prove to be difficult, however.

The federal government shutdown started on October 1, 2013 and continues to date. Nobody really knows what precisely will happen to the US economy now that the shutdown is underway. Can anyone answer questions about when the impact of the shutdown will be felt? Some reports say that effects are already being felt. Ask those who have been furloughed, for instance, whether they feel the effects of the shutdown. Not surprisingly, the level of employee frustration is increasing perhaps daily. See more about this frustration as reported by WTOP in Washington, DC.

If you happen to live in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, the shutdown is a major topic of discussion. Will you lose your federally-funded job? Will you be forced to take time off without pay to keep your federally-funded job?

I moved away from the Washington, DC metropolitan area in 2012 after having lived and worked there for nearly twenty years. You may have seen what I wrote about these experiences elsewhere on this website.

Now that the shutdown has happened, I want to share an honest reality with you:

One motivating reason for my choice to leave the Washington, DC metropolitan area was the unanswerable questions I had about whether it is sufficiently secure to have a life and a career in the Washington, DC metropolitan area where making a living depends so deeply upon the decisions and behaviors of the federal government (especially the legislative branch, whose recent behaviors I happen to find self-centered and immature.)

I was never a federal employee. But, for many years I worked inside federal agencies in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. I worked for various companies (such as Booz Allen Hamilton and others) in the Washington, DC metropolitan area who paid contractors like me using federal dollars that the companies received from the federal government for Department of Defense and Department of Justice work that I performed.

From first-hand experience, I know what it feels like to attend employee meetings where the top person in charge of the federal agency says things like this:

“We don’t know if our funding will continue at the present levels. We don’t know if anyone’s job is in jeopardy. We are working hard right now to get answers that we know you want and need. Meanwhile, don’t worry.”

Yeah, right. Don’t worry.

When I first arrived in the Washington, DC metropolitan area in 1995, I lived in and around federal government shutdowns during the Bill Clinton presidency. I saw how partisan politics in the mid-1990s brought out the worst belligerence in Members of Congress.

But, in the mid-1990s, there was one thing that was very different from today. In those days it was considered a very desirable thing to be an employee who was paid directly or indirectly by the federal government.

By the time I chose to leave the Washington, DC metropolitan area in 2012, that desirability had started to fade. Now, I think that desirability will never be able to be restored. There likely will be a brain drain from the national capital region as highly qualified and talented people choose to relocate elsewhere to more secure employment conditions that are not dependent upon the current behaviors of belligerent elected officials.

People who were dependent upon federal government money for making a living during the 1995/1996 shutdown who are still dependent upon federal government money for making a living in 2013 will be unable to escape the lessons not learned. How many government shutdowns will employees who are dependent upon federal funding be able to tolerate?

For me, the choice was to get out of the Washington, DC area in 2012. I looked ahead from that vantage point in 2012 and I saw things on the horizon like the sequester and the shutdown as very distinct possibilities for hurting me financially. So, I made the choice to go.

I have never regretted for one moment that decision to leave the national capital region. I do not want to return to live and work in the Washington, DC area again. For me and my professional career, living and working in the Washington, DC area proved to be far too risky.

Meanwhile, I feel for all those friends of mine who are suffering financially because of the shutdown that does not seem likely to be ended very soon.


Share your comments and suggestions on the subject of depending upon federally-funded jobs. I look forward to hearing from you today! Use the comment box below. Go ahead. Post your opinions here on Ned’s JOTW site.

See the growing list of posts in the “Stand Out” series here at Ned’s JOTW website.

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