FACES OF THE SHUTDOWN

From Maine to Colorado, Shutdown Puts Lives on Hold

Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson (left) and Scott and Lisa Jenkins  
National Journal
National Journal Staff
Oct. 8, 2013, 1:46 p.m.

The gov­ern­ment shut­down that is now in its second week is af­fect­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of fed­er­al em­ploy­ees around the coun­try. While the work stop­page con­tin­ues, Na­tion­al Journ­al Daily is ask­ing some of those pub­lic ser­vants to share stor­ies of what they and all Amer­ic­ans are miss­ing without their gov­ern­ment at full strength.

Fly­ing Low

The Air Force Academy Ca­det Field House — a massive struc­ture that houses an in­door play­ing field and a 2,470-seat ice-hockey rink — is usu­ally abuzz with activ­ity.

But that was be­fore the shut­down, and with it, the sus­pen­sion of in­ter­col­legi­ate sports at the glit­ter­ing ser­vice academy perched in the foot­hills north of Col­or­ado Springs, Colo.

“It’s com­pletely dis­rupt­ive — as you can ima­gine — to have 1,000 people you rely on to stay at home,” said Lt. Gen. Michelle D. John­son, su­per­in­tend­ent of the Air Force Academy, at a press con­fer­ence last Thursday on the main quad. “We take it very ser­i­ously, be­cause we’re here build­ing a fu­ture, build­ing lieu­ten­ants who are com­pet­ent and con­fid­ent and cap­able to go out and lead.”

At that time, John­son had sent home about 1,000 of the academy’s 1,500 ci­vil­ian work­ers and sus­pen­ded 60 of the in­sti­tu­tion’s 300 courses. Since then, she has re­versed course and re­called nearly all of them.

One of the more com­ic­al ef­fects — and the one that garnered the most me­dia at­ten­tion — was a lack of toi­let pa­per in some cam­pus dorm­it­or­ies. “We’re not al­ways aware at a really high level of who has the con­tract for the toi­let pa­per,” John­son said. “But we found out pretty fast, and we fixed it, be­cause that’s tre­mend­ously [im­port­ant].”

Oth­er ad­just­ments in­clude bring­ing in non-academy mil­it­ary per­son­nel to patrol the peri­met­er of the fa­cil­ity and can­celing ca­dets’ train­ing flights.

Yet, it is the sus­pen­sion of in­ter­col­legi­ate sports that has taken the biggest toll on mor­ale. Last Sat­urday, the Air Force Fal­cons foot­ball squad played the Navy Mid­ship­men in An­na­pol­is, Md. — the Fal­cons lost 28-10 — but the game was pos­sible only be­cause the United Ser­vices Auto­mobile As­so­ci­ation paid the Fal­cons’ travel ex­penses.

“The reas­on “¦ this par­tic­u­lar game is pos­sible, when oth­er activ­it­ies have been can­celed, is that a very gen­er­ous private donor has provided the funds for the travel and lodging of just the foot­ball team, just the bare bones,” John­son said last week. “It’s only the team. I’m not go­ing, the cheer­lead­ers aren’t go­ing.”

There is no word yet on wheth­er the Fal­cons will host the San Diego State Aztecs this Thursday, as planned.

Chris­toph­er Snow Hop­kins

Stuck in Limbo

Rosa Van Wie, 23, has $87 in cash and $2 in her bank ac­count.

“I lived with my par­ents this sum­mer and saved up enough to cov­er two months’ rent,” she said. “That, and my grandma gave me $100.”

She’s bal­an­cing car pay­ments and $20,000 in stu­dent-loan pay­ments by selling painted sea­shells at a mar­ket near her ho­met­own in Maine.

“I made $15,” she said. “But, yeah, feed­ing my­self is tricky.”

When she got a job of­fer to work at a preschool for aut­ist­ic kids, she was ec­stat­ic. But the next day, the gov­ern­ment shut down.

“Right now, they don’t have enough staff,” Van Wie said. “I prob­ably would have star­ted this week.”

She can’t start un­til the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment re­opens and com­pletes her back­ground check. She’s been without a job since mid-Au­gust, when she wrapped up a stint at a sum­mer camp. Wan Vie says she loves her two sen­at­ors from Maine but is frus­trated with Con­gress — es­pe­cially tea-party Re­pub­lic­ans — for act­ing like “little chil­dren.”

“I nev­er really thought they would do this,” Van Wie said.

Mean­while, the preschool is work­ing on a state back­ground check, con­tact­ing places where Van Wie pre­vi­ously worked. She’s filling out more pa­per­work, and hopes she might be able to start next week.

“It’d be really nice to get a paycheck soon.”

Clara Rit­ger

Moun­tain Re­treat

Like thou­sands of gov­ern­ment work­ers, Lisa Jen­kins is fa­cing some un­ex­pec­ted time off be­cause of the shut­down, but she isn’t let­ting it go to waste. She and her hus­band, Scott, are restor­ing a his­tor­ic home in Front Roy­al, Va., that they plan to con­vert in­to a bed-and-break­fast.

“It needed a lot of work. It was kind of a stretch for us in terms of buy­ing and fix­ing it up,” said Jen­kins, who works in IT for the En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency. But a long shut­down could put some of that work on hold. “We’re really re­ly­ing on our con­tin­ued in­come,” she said.

Jen­kins, 54, who has been at EPA for 23 years and ex­per­i­enced the shut­downs in 1995 and 1996, doesn’t be­lieve the cur­rent work stop­page is ne­ces­sary. “There’s just no pre­ced­ent for ty­ing the budget to any­thing else,” she said.

She used the time off dur­ing the ‘90s to com­plete an ad­op­tion, but now Jen­kins says she’s heard from older fed­er­al em­ploy­ees “that they are less likely now to whole­heartedly en­cour­age young­er people to enter the fed­er­al ser­vices.”

Jordain Car­ney

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