Home / National News / Most Surprising Consequences of a Government Shutdown


(WASHINGTON) — The government is now in the midst of its first partial government shutdown in almost 18 years and the effects will be felt in some unusual places.

From the shuttering of Congress’ barber shop and dry cleaning, to confiscating blackberries and iPhones, here are a few consequences of a shutdown that may surprise you:

National Zoo

  • Will shut down: The National Zoo will be shutting its doors to the public starting on Tuesday.  And that means the live stream of cute pandas also won’t be running.
  • Won’t shut down: Don’t worry, the Zoo says it plans to keep feeding and caring for the animals.

Federal Aviation Administration

  • Will shut down: You probably didn’t know the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was working on a technology that lets cars “talk” to each other to avoid accidents.  It turns out, however, this project is slated to be shelved in the event of a government shutdown.  Another Federal Aviation Administration project — developing a new air traffic control system called NextGen — will also be stalled until funding for the government comes back online.
  • Won’t shut down: The skies, however, will continue to be safe as air traffic controllers will still work through a shutdown.


  • Will shut down: 97 percent of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration will be furloughed during a shutdown.
  • Won’t shut down: The exception to the rule will be astronauts in space, who keep working shutdown or no shutdown.  And so will mission control, which supports them.

Scientific Research

  • Will shut down: The National Science Foundation will reduce its workforce from roughly 2,000 to just 30.
  • Won’t shut down: Among those who can keep working during a shutdown are the scientists stationed in the Arctic and Antarctic and other Polar Programs staff who will “maintain communications with individuals ‘on the ice’ to assist in responding to emergency situations that might arise.”

Life on Capitol Hill

  • Will shut down: Life gets a little more inconvenient for Congressional staffers on Tuesday.  The House gift shop, barber shop, dry cleaning, dining room, shoe shine, and wellness center will all be closed.  Only one entrance to each House office building will be open, staff and guide-led tours are cancelled, and the Capitol Visitors Center will be closed to tourists.
  • Won’t shut down: Most of Capitol Hill will keep working through a shutdown.  After all, they are needed to pass a new bill to fund the government.  Each congressional office determines who is essential and who is not.

The Essential vs. the Non-Essential

  • Will shut down: The entire federal government will divide between “essential” or excepted employees and “non-essential” or non-excepted employees, who will be furloughed starting on Tuesday.
  • Won’t shut down: Essential (exempted) employees can stay on the job through a government shutdown, but they’re not allowed to talk to furloughed employees.  According to a State Department shutdown memo, “Excepted personnel should not communicate with non-excepted employees.”

Hang on to Your Smartphones

  • Will shut down: Some Federal employees may have their smartphones pried from their hands on Tuesday.  That’s because IT managers at federal agencies can choose to recall devices from furloughed employees (who can’t use them anyway).  Most IT functions in the federal government aren’t considered essential, so if an employee needs help when their iPhone stops working during a government shutdown, they may be out of luck.
  • Won’t shut down: Many federal employees will simply keep their smartphones, though they aren’t supposed to work if they’re furloughed.

Diplomacy Takes a Front Seat — Mostly

  • Will shut down: Two key functions will be on hold until Congress approves new funding: foreign military aid and payments to non-governmental organizations.  That only affects payments that were scheduled to be made while the government is closed, however.  Payments that are in process before the shutdown will go through.
  • Won’t shut down: Most of the State Department will keep running, using reserve funds in the event of a shut down, including visa and passport applications.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


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